• Phil Packer

Great Britain Rower and Junior & U23 World Champion, Jess Leyden, joins the BRIT Ambassador family

We are delighted that Jess has joined our BRIT Ambassador family.

Jess is one of the country's most promising young rowers having won World Championships gold at both junior and U23 level. She is the first ever GB rower to win an international women’s single scull title, has made a rapid rise through the ranks and has had three seasons in the senior squad. In January 2021, Jess contacted COVID-19 and wasn't well enough to represent Great Britain at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Now her sights are well and truly set on representing Great Britain in the single scull at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

Jess Leyden - Great Britain Rower and Junior & U23 World Champion

“As a student with the Open University, and through my experiences of training and competing with young elite athletes, I can appreciate the many mental health challenges faced by students and young adults.


There was a significant increase in the number of students and young adults experiencing mental health challenges pre-COVID-19 and it is worrying that the pandemic is impacting on existing mental health difficulties and the mental health of many new and returning students. In order to avoid long-term effects on their mental health, I wholeheartedly believe that a collaborativeapproach is needed between charities, support services and organisations that will help to deliver vital support to more young adults and students with mental health challenges.

I am inspired and excited by The British Inspiration Trust (BRIT) Vision; to support and improve young adult and student mental health and fitness throughout the UK. BRIT are achieving success through their strategy of collaboration and are partnering, or developing special relationships, with many national governing bodies throughout the Education, Sport and Charity sectors. Over the past two years, almost 180 UK university and college teams have taken part in their BRIT Challenges.

The annual BRIT Challenge is a feel-good February fundraiser that enables students and young adults of all abilities to take part in wherever they are (at home or on campus), improve their mental health and fitness and feel part of a team. It is also a great way for students and staff to raise vital funds for charity.

I am delighted to be joining the BRIT Ambassador family to support and improve young adult mental health and will encourage my fellow Great Britain rowers to join me. By uniting as Olympians, Paralympians, sports personalities, adventurers and explorers, we can encourage more of our chosen universities and colleges to take on the annual BRIT Challenge and support the mental health and fitness of students and young adults throughout the UK.

I would be thrilled to encourage students and staff at The Open University, the University of Chichester and Chichester College Group (CCG) should they enter teams in the BRIT Challenge. The next BRIT Challenge will take place in February 2022 and I urge students and staff at The Open University, University of Chichester and CCG to participate and unite to support young adult and student mental health.”

Jess started her rowing career with Hollingwood Lake Rowing Club.

In 2013, Jess won single sculls gold at the World Rowing Junior Championships, which made her the first British woman to win a global solo openweight rowing title at any level. At the time, she was a student at Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School.

Another outstanding display at the 2014 World U23 Championships in Varese saw Jess finish just outside the medals. That performance earned Jess selection as a spare for the senior World Rowing Championships in Amsterdam.

Jess began studying for a Master’s Degree in Engineering with the Open University in 2015. This is enabling her to pursue her Higher Education while also competing for Great Britain and as a full-time Performance Athlete with British Rowing; she hope to complete her degree in 2024.

She had earned her first senior selection in 2015, after finishing fourth in the GB Rowing Team Senior Trials. Jess raced in the women’s quad throughout the year and stroked the boat – which also included Melanie Wilson, Tina Stiller and Beth Rodford – to fourth place at the European Championships in Poznan, just two-tenths of a second shy of a podium place.

Jess and Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne then formed an extremely impressive women’s double scull at the 2016 World Rowing U23 Championships in Rotterdam. Clear-water winners in both their heat and semi-final, they produced another top-class display of sculling in the final to take gold.

Jess has twice won the Wingfield Sculls in 2016 and 2019.

At the opening World Cup of the 2017 season, Jess won bronze in a women’s quad crew which included Beth Bryan, Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne and Holly Nixon, following it up with bronze at the European Championships. Injury disrupted her mid-season, but she returned to action in spectacular fashion by winning a remarkable bronze at the World Championships in Sarasota-Bradenton.

Jess rows out of Leander Club.

You can follow Jess on Twitter @jessleyden

For more information on British Rowing, please visit their website.