Katherine Grainger, one of the stars of London 2012 where she won Olympic rowing gold with Anna Watkins, is in danger of not making the British team for Rio.
Grainger, who finally won gold four years ago after taking silver at the three previous Games, came out of retirement in 2014 in a bid to appear at a fifth straight OIympics and defend her title at the age of 40.
However, after a disappointing result at the European Championships in Germany earlier this month, that dream appears to have died. The decision to disband the double of Grainger and Vicky Thornley has left the Olympic champion without a seat in any boat and in danger of not going to Rio at all.
Grainger will now compete for a place in the women’s VIII, winners of the European Champion-ships last weekend. With less than three months to the start of the Games, there is precious little time even for Britain’s greatest female rower to stake her claim.
Neither Grainger nor Thornley will be selected for the VIII in the World Cup regatta in Lucerne at the end of the month, which leaves only the last World Cup in Poland for the squad’s two best scullers to be fitted into an increasingly competitive VIII.
“It has put my Olympic place in the balance,” said Grainger yesterday. “I’ve never been in this position before, not having a seat in a boat so close to an Olympics. But I don’t want to walk away from it now.”
Grainger and her doubles partner, Watkins, produced one of the enduring stories of London 2012 and the lure of defending her title, albeit without Watkins, helped to bring Grainger back to rowing after two years out of the sport. The end of her partnership with Thornley, announced to a stunned women’s squad on Friday, came as a major disappointment to Grainger.
“The double has been very close to my heart so I’m very sad about the decision,” she said. “Defending the title was a driving factor in me coming back. So personally and professionally it’s disappointing. But Vicky and I weren’t performing to the right level so we have to look at the other options.
“If we can help to make the VIII faster, it’s a very exciting opportunity because they are a top-class crew already. But it’s been made clear to us that we will have to earn our places.”
Article with thanks to Andrew Longmore, The Sunday Times