Dame Katherine Grainger's signature helped turn Lily Abbott's international rowing dreams into reality.

The Teddington talent has enjoyed a thrilling rise in the water, working her way up from Kingston Grammar School before recently competing for Great Britain at the prestigious Coupe de la Jeunesse.

She’s soon to be enrolling at North Carolina’s Duke University - but says she’ll never forget her sporting hero's influence in igniting her career on the big stage.

“I read Dame Katherine Grainger’s autobiography - and then she came to my school and I met her!” said the 18-year-old, who is financially supported by a three-year partnership between GVC Holdings and SportsAid as part of GVC’s Pitching In initiative.

Isle of Wight County Press: Abbott reckons meeting Grainger helped catalyse her career in the waterAbbott reckons meeting Grainger helped catalyse her career in the water

"That was amazing - she came just before I went to GB trials and signed in my book ‘good luck at trials!’

“She spoke about her career and position as chair of UK Sport - I just found it really interesting.

“She’s obviously a person who’s done so much and was on the team for so long, and is someone who’s such a prominent person in the sport.

“That was amazing to talk to her, and speaking to her one on one was really cool. Rowing’s changed my life and hopefully it continues to do so.”

Supported by Paralympian Baroness Grey-Thompson, GVC announced a three-year partnership with SportsAid in 2019 to help young athletes realise their potential and promote grassroots sport.

The investment will provide funding for training, travel and equipment and allow athletes access to mentoring by Olympians and Paralympians on topics such as nutrition and sports psychology.

Abbott is competing for Tideway Scullers School in her gap year before embarking on an American odyssey and a rowing scholarship at Duke.

She can’t wait to cross the pond and hopes that international experience can propel her to the same heights that saw Grainger scoop five Olympic medals.

Isle of Wight County Press: The young star is targeting GB Under-23 recognition as she plots a route to the Olympic GamesThe young star is targeting GB Under-23 recognition as she plots a route to the Olympic Games

“I’m super excited - there are a few Brits there, and the coaching group is amazing,” added Abbott, who is following in the footsteps of Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, Sir Mo Farah and Dina Asher-Smith in receiving SportsAid support.

“I want to get into the Under-23 World Championships because it’s a great pathway to the senior Worlds.

“I would love to target the Olympics - I’m very driven and want to be as good as I can be and if that means the Olympics, then that’s definitely an aim.”

GVC is proud to be championing the next generation of British sporting heroes by providing talented young athletes with financial support and personal development opportunities in partnership with SportsAid. As part of this three-year partnership, GVC are supporting a diverse group 50 of UK athletes per year from a variety of spots and para-sports. Visit gvc-plc.com to find out more.