Tears of joy for Grainger

03 August 2012 / 16:44

Rower Katherine Grainger shed tears of joy as she stood on the victory podium at Eton Dorney to receive the Olympic gold medal that had eluded her so painfully for 12 years.

After three successive Olympic silver medals, Grainger's triumph with Anna Watkins in the double sculls was the fulfilment of a ground-breaking career.

And the British pair won it in style. Watkins knew after 800 metres of the two-kilometre course at Eton Dorney that victory was theirs. Coach Paul Thompson knew after 30 strokes.

From that moment, Grainger and Watkins drank in the adulation of the 30,000-strong crowd as they held Australia at bay to win by a length and seal one of the most popular home triumphs of the Olympics.

And what a contrast to four years ago. The tears on that occasion were of desolation at another silver. What followed were serious thoughts of retirement.

But Grainger knew she would have been walking off into the sunset unfulfilled, with an aching hole in her heart. She had to fight on to London.

The reward for continuing was the development of a new and invincible partnership with Watkins, a bronze medallist from the Beijing Olympics. Together they have won two world titles and now an Olympic gold medal over three unbeaten years.

"On the podium we both knew how special it was," Grainger said.

"Any Olympic medal is a phenomenal achievement in itself. Having had three in the past of, for me, not the right colour, it (gold) became the one I wanted to complete the collection.

"Ever since Anna and I got into the boat together, we knew we had the potential to be best in the world.

"Then it was about living out that potential and delivering it at a home Olympics, the biggest event in the world.

"We knew if we could do that, we would have done something very special."

Asked whether her decorated career would have been left unfulfilled without the triumph she said: "In a word, yes.

"As an individual I would have been a happy, secure, safe normal-ish person.

"But as an athlete it would always have been the one I didn't get.

"Anna and I as a combination have always felt very special in a boat and if we hadn't achieved it together today we would have under-performed.

"It is the fulfilment of a lot of hard work. Blood, sweat and tears."

Despite her own personal Olympic disappointments, Grainger was always seen as the queen of British rowing, but this was coronation day.

In Sydney she became the first British woman to win an Olympic rowing medal and in 2006 Grainger was awarded an MBE for services to the sport.

In Beijing, amid the tears, she became the first British woman in any sport to win a medal at three successive Olympics. Now it is four - and no longer is she an Olympic bridesmaid.

"I am a bride at last," she laughed.

"I did seriously consider what I would do after Beijing. For anyone who was there, Beijing was a really tough result and I wanted to make sure I continued for the right reasons.

"As soon as I made the decision, there was never a doubt. I have had three fantastic years."

Grainger and Watkins took command of the final virtually from the first stroke and opened a dominant lead over Australia's Brooke Pratley and Kim Crowe.

"Just before halfway I knew we had won it," Watkins said.

"With the crowd there was no way anything was going to go wrong. We had time to enjoy it, which is more than you can dream of."

Grainger is 36, Watkins 29. Neither of them has yet decided what the future holds and whether to race on to Rio in 2016.

"The only sad thought of the day is that it could be the last race," Watkins said.

"You cannot plan for beyond this point because you don't know what is going to happen."