Sydenham High rowers pull together for tumour survivor’s fundraising Atlantic record bid

Sydenham High School’s rowers are pulling together for a very special charity world record attempt by rower and Cushing’s disease survivor Kiko Matthews. Kiko is raising money for the new critical care unit at King’s College Hospital by attempting to become the fastest female to cross the Atlantic solo and unsupported. The team from Sydenham High is hoping to raise £1,000 for her cause by aiming to row a total of 3,000 miles in training – the actual distance Kiko will be rowing in January (minus the Atlantic’s 40ft waves!)

Since her 2009 diagnosis of a rare and life-threatening disease, Kiko’s life has been saved not once but twice by the doctors and nurses of King’s. To thank the hospital, and challenge herself, Kiko decided to use her love of rowing to raise money for the new unit, which will help save many more lives in the future.

More than 25 rowers, including captain of boats Phoebe and year 12 rowing scholar Darcy, have been taking to the school’s ergo machines, to add to their river training, to clock up the necessary miles and reach their sponsorship target.

Kiko herself joined them on the river for a training session and was paired with year 11 rower Elena.  Afterwards Kiko announced on Twitter: “Having a year 11 girl in charge and showing me the ropes was awesome. Totally loved my afternoon.”

The Sydenham High team was inspired to support Kiko after she was the guest speaker at senior school prize giving in July.  They are one of one hundred female supporters and groups being recruited by Kiko through her 100TogetHER fundraising campaign.

"This challenge proves that anyone can attempt anything given the right attitude, belief and support. I want to use my story to inspire women to challenge themselves on many levels. Whether a physical, social or mental challenge, recognising the journey and developments you make is key to developing confidence and independence.”

— Kiko Mathews, transatlantic rower

In fact, when Kiko sets off on her journey she will not exactly be alone; the images of all her 100TogetHER supporters, including the Sydenham High rowers, will cover the inside of her tiny cabin to inspire her to keep going and achieve her goal when times get tough.

Only five women have ever crossed the Atlantic solo. Kiko is not only aiming to add her name to this prestigious list; she has also set herself the goal of making her crossing in just 45 days – 11 days faster than the current French female record holder.  Sydenham High’s rowers will be right there with her, willing her to succeed.

“I am delighted to have Sydenham High rowers on board with me,” said Kiko.  “This challenge is about them too; it proves that anyone can attempt anything given the right attitude, belief and support. I want to use my story to inspire women to challenge themselves on many levels. Whether a physical, social or mental challenge, recognising the journey and developments you make, is key to developing confidence and independence.”

“It was a privilege to hear Kiko’s inspirational story in July,” said Headmistress Katharine Woodcock.  “Kiko certainly embodies our motto of Fear Nothing and we are very proud to be supporting her on her amazing journey for such a worthy cause.“

Rowing has been going from strength to strength at Sydenham High and is now one of its most popular sport options.  From a half dozen rowers two years ago, the school is now accredited with GB rowing and has over 40 students from year 9 to year 13 actively enjoying the sport each week.  A senior crew recently had the privilege of rowing the Queen’s barge Gloriana alongside a crew from Dulwich College.

NOTE:  To see more about the 100TogetHER campaign and Kiko’s story, visit her website at: http://www.kikomatthews.co.uk/100together/