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Grainger’s rocky boat to Rio rowing record attempt

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Great Britain's Katherine Grainger (front) and Anna Watkins (R) celebrate winning the women's double sculls final of the rowing event during the London 2012 Olympic Games
Great Britain’s Katherine Grainger (front) and Anna Watkins (R) celebrate winning the women’s double sculls final of the rowing event during the London 2012 Olympic Games

Rower Katherine Grainger will bid to become Britain’s most decorated Olympian after a desperate struggle to get a place in the team.

The 40-year-old has a gold from London 2012 and three straight silvers with Anna Watkins in the double sculls.

That puts her level with swimmer Rebecca Adlington on four medals when she defends her title in Rio with a new partner Vicky Thornley.

The manner in which they claimed places suggests Grainger, who has a doctorate in homicide, will do well to kill off her rivals’ hopes this time.

At one stage she and Thornley tried the women’s eights but did not make the British Olympic team.

Grainger and Thornley faced a nervous wait of more than two weeks in June before being named in the doubles again. She called it a “rollercoaster” and said getting the record breaking medal would be “the biggest challenge of my career.”

Her struggles could be explained by a shaking off of the cobwebs and getting used to her new and younger partner — Thornley is 28 — having taken a sabbatical after winning gold at the London Games.

She made it crystal clear that she would not return just to make up the numbers in Rio.

– No t-shirt trip –

“I didn’t take time out, then come back, to go to a fifth Olympics and just get a T-shirt,” she told the BBC.

“Vicky and myself both want a medal and we haven’t lowered our sights.”

Certainly the sabbatical was not wasted as Grainger gained a doctorate in human rights law to add to the law degree she passed when a student at Edinburgh University.

Part of her course work for her doctorate in homicide — which she worked on prior to the London Games — was a 100,000 word thesis on psychopathic killers and their mental health.

She even drew a parallel to the extremes she went in order to reach peak fitness.

“It’s not the lightest of reading matter of an afternoon but it is a lot about human behaviour, whether on the criminal side or society’s side in their reaction to things at an absolute extreme end,” she told Channel 4 in 2012.

“In some ways I probably work (row) at the extreme end of human behaviour anyway – there are some parallels potentially but I consider it very different from sport.”

For that thesis she was obliged to consult with senior judges, police chiefs and politicians including one Theresa May then the Home Secretary and now prime minister. May is the member of parliament for Maidenhead where Grainger lives.

Grainger, though, is not the exception to the rule in maintaining an interest in meatier issues outside the confines of her training and competing.

“It’s amazing given how straightforward and uncomplicated the sport is how remarkably intelligent some of the people in it are,” she told The Daily Telegraph newspaper in 2014.

“And I think because everyone is so single minded, they have very strong opinions on everything. In the crew room the conversation ranges from Syria to I’m A Celebrity to the weather.

“The truth is when I do eventually retire -– and I know I can’t go on beyond Rio -– I will leave this sport as a much wiser person.”

Rowing will be the poorer for her departure but her future outside the sport looks assured.

Source by: AFP

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