Brilliant Bennett sets sights on Tokyo

Winning an Olympic medal after one senior international season is an unthinkable feat for most athletes.

Karen Bennett is one of the few who have managed it, but the 30-year-old rower refuses to stop there.

Bennett’s career-crowning moment came at the end of her first full season with the GB rowing team in 2016 when she helped her nation win a first-ever women’s eight medal with silver at the Rio Olympics.

And she has managed to pack more accolades into her relatively short rowing career ever since, winning bronze at the World Rowing Cup II in June before missing out on European gold by 0.06 seconds to Romania.

But that’s not enough for 30-year-old Bennett, who has more glory in her sights as she prepares to compete as part of the British eight boat at the World Championships in Linz, Austria.

That Rio feeling is a sensation she will never forget – and with Tokyo 2020 qualification on the line, there is only one thing on her mind.

“We need to get the World Championships right,” said Bennett.

“If we can qualify the boat for Tokyo this month, we will all have far less to worry about.

“We do have another opportunity to qualify next year but we want to secure our spot before then. If we don’t, everything becomes much more difficult.

“We want to be going into the last year of the Olympic cycle only having to qualify ourselves for the seats, not having to worry about the boat itself.

“Finishing in the top five at the World Championships will take a huge weight off all our shoulders.

“It’s a huge race for the whole squad, but I am 100% confident in every member of the eight to be able to qualify the boat. We just need to go out and do the job.”

She only broke into the GB team in 2015, but Bennett has already become one of the more experienced members of the squad, with her and Zoe Lee the only Olympic silver medallists who are still part of the women’s eight.

The pair will compete alongside Fiona Gammond, Jo Wratten, Hattie Taylor, Rowan McKellar, Rebecca Shorten, Holly Norton and cox Matilda Horn when the World Championships get underway on August 25.

And while Bennett says it is the fond memories of Rio which continue to spur her and Lee on, she is well aware their past heroics will not guarantee the team lasting success.

“It was our three-year Olympic silver anniversary last week, so I was thinking about it a lot when we were out on the water, but the key thing is we’re not trying to mimic everything the eight did in 2016,” added Bennett.

“The whole world has moved on since we won silver in Rio in 2016, so we need to follow that trend too and make our own story.

“There’s a lot of different personalities and less experienced players, but that can bring positives.

“Although we can take mine and Zoe Lee’s experience from Rio, we need to be able to bring the new girls up to move forward and go one better.

“I’m part of a different squad now, but I think having won a silver medal at the last Olympics makes me even more determined to want to go again.”

Sportsbeat 2019