Grainger and Watkins 'have X factor'

18 April 2012 / 00:06

GB Rowing's women's coach Paul Thompson is not often compared to Simon Cowell but, in putting Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins in the same double scull, he has hit upon "the X factor".

Grainger and Watkins are double world champions, they are unbeaten for two years and head into the Olympic season strong favourites to deliver gold for Great Britain.

If they succeed on the waters of Eton Dorney then Grainger will finally have the Olympic gold medal she craves, having won three successive silvers.

Grainger almost retired in 2008 after Britain's quad were reeled in over the last 200 metres of the Beijing Olympic final and edged into second place by China.

But she could not walk away. Grainger accepted her destiny was far from certain but committed to competing through to London 2012, vowing to do so without any fear of failure.

After a successful experimental year in the single scull, Grainger and Watkins were paired by Thompson in a routine training session. The chemistry was immediate.

"I genuinely think there is a bit of an X factor. The first time we sat in a boat together, it worked, from the first moment," Grainger said.

"When it first clicks, it's a bit magical. It's hard to explain. We had been on the team for five years and yet never rowed together. On a training camp in Portugal, everyone swapped round and we were put together in a double... From that first day, we knew there was something."

On her return home from Beijing, Grainger sat down with Thompson in a Marlow cafe to talk over whether she should continue. "We talked through it," Thompson said. "I said 'This is not a fairytale, there is not necessarily a happy ending, you might get another silver or might not get a medal'. That is sport."

Grainger not only accepted that but embraced it and her reward was finding Watkins, two world titles and now a genuine fourth shot at Olympic gold.