Grainger focuses on golden future

29 July 2012 / 18:12

When rower Katherine Grainger sits on the start line of Monday's double sculls heat she will be inspired by the potential for a golden future - and not burdened by her silver past.

Grainger became the first British woman to win medals at three consecutive Olympic Games with her silver as part of the women's quad in Beijing four years ago.

But she was inconsolable. Britain's quad, the pre-Games favourites, had been overtaken by China in an agonising finish leaving Grainger with her third Olympic silver.

She was the bridesmaid once again. Every post-Olympics function she had to attend felt like a knife being twisted.

Thoughts of retirement were inevitable. Grainger knew if she was going to continue into London 2012, she would have to reconcile the inevitable fear: "What if it ended in silver again?"

It took four months but Grainger slowly processed the pain and then decided, wholeheartedly, that competing for another Olympiad would be worth the risk.

And Britain's most successful female rower has never looked back.

On Monday, Grainger and Watkins open their London 2012 campaign as double world champions, on the back of a 21-race unbeaten streak.

"I won't be sitting on the start line thinking 'Beijing is my motivation'," Grainger said.

"It is very much part of my history. As an athlete all those moments - whether successful, unsuccessful, disappointing or euphoric - they all become part of you and part of your journey.

"You can't help but take all those with you. I know how painful it is to lose from a winning position. I know how painful it is to lose when you go in as favourites. But that is not my drive. I don't want to put things right.

"It is very much about this boat now. It is about the bond that Anna and I have and the potential we have together.It is a whole different world now."

Grainger competed alone in 2009, winning an impressive world championship silver in the single scull before stumbling on her partnership with Anna.

It was a routine training session when Grainger and Watkins, who had been part of the same Great Britain team for five years, stepped in a boat together for the first time.

"I knew as soon as I made the decision to carry on that it was the right decision - and everything that has happened since then has just confirmed that for me," Grainger said.

"That training session wasn't anything special. It wasn't billed as anything that could become anything. But within minutes Anna and I both thought 'this is something special'.

"Physically we are well matched but we are also matched mentally and technically in how we think about racing and what our standards are.

"We come at things differently. Anna's background is very much in science and mathematics. She understands the mechanics of the boat and the bio-mechanics of what we do.

"She gets it really well and she will analyse and study the numbers and bring out things I would never have thought of. I run more on instinct and feel for the boat. We come at any problems from a slightly different aspect but we solve them."

The British men's four will look to continue a proud British gold-medal tradition when they launch their Olympic campaign.

Britain have won gold in the class at the last three Olympic Games - but they were beaten by nearest rivals Australia in their last outing.

Alex Gregory, the only member of the crew who did win gold in Beijing, believes that defeat by Australia could prove to be a blessing in disguise.

"We beat them in Lucerne but it wasn't a surprise they beat us in Munich, they are a great crew," Gregory said.

"I think losing in Munich was a really good thing for us because it forced us to try and work on our technique. It has really given us focus.

"I am aware of the history and that is a really good thing. It is inspirational - and it gives me confidence that as a coach, Jurgen Grobler has got crews to gold medals in the past.

"You can't rely on that but it is in the back of our minds. It is an honour to be in the position I am in and I really hope I can continue the legacy.

"It gives me motivation".