“The whole of the nation believes in your ability. Your dedication has inspired a generation. You are the epitome of Olympic spirit and values …now go get your gold medal, no one deserves it more!”
This, from Julie Henderson, is just one of the many messages of support that have been flooding into this website in recent days. And the good news is – Katherine, already the holder of three Olympic silver medals, is ready.
Katherine and Anna Watkins start their double sculls campaign for that elusive gold medal on Monday and even with the experience of three previous Olympic Games and six world titles, Katherine knows just how special this home Olympic Games is. She says, “it’s definitely going to be emotional when the racing starts. That’s when you realise that what you’ve been training for all these years is here. The Olympics bring a lot of emotion, and it shows how much it means to you, but I’m looking forward to getting out there”. And asked how she’ll feel on the start-line she added, “if I didn’t get nervous, I’d be nervous about not being nervous. You have to feel nervous. It’s more a sign now of acknowledging what an important event this is and how much it means to you, and you can take it in your stride rather that just being completely at the mercy of nerves. But you have to come through that to make it feel special”.
The Eton Dorney course is used extensively through the year by the GB rowing team, and, about this, Katherine says, “it feels like it’s our course. One aspect that will change will be the deafening noise when we get down towards the line. That changes the way you race to some extent, but it’ll make the course seem shorter because usually it’s pretty empty coming down. But you cannot fail to notice that it’s something very special now. Olympic racing is always exciting, always dramatic and always has great stories behind it. If the weather stays good it’ll be perfect for people watching. It’s a simple sport – first across the line”.
To their credit, Katherine and Anna have always made it clear they will not be happy with anything but gold. “Anna and I are unbeaten in our boat, so of course when it comes to the Olympic regatta, it’s all about winning” confirms Katherine. “We know how good our boat is, and how good we are as athletes, so it’s almost just that you want to fulfil your potential in the Olympic race to be faster than anyone else in the world. So for us, it’s about being as fast as we can and the result will take care of itself”.
Last time round, Katherine and her quadruple scull crew-mates were in just as strong a position, arriving in Beijing with three successive world titles to their names, only to be agonisingly rowed down by China in the final’s closing stages. It took months for Katherine, who was in tears as a she received her silver medal then, to finally look at TV replays of that race. Now, she is reconciled to what happened. “The Beijing result is very much part of my history and a huge motivation” she concedes. “All those moments when you’re successful, unsuccessful, euphoric, or anything else become part of you, and you can’t help that. But I’m not going to spend this week thinking about Beijing – that’s not my inspiration at all. It’s there, it’s in me, it’s kind of more on a subconscious level than anything else. I don’t want to ‘put things right’, it’s all about this boat now and the bond that Anna and I have and the potential we have together”.
The final steps of Katherine and Anna’s golden crusade are upon them.