By Tom Harle
Imogen Grant wants to keep the continent’s best in the rear view mirror as she jumps back into her world-beating lightweight double at the European Championships.
The Cambridge rower and partner Emily Craig encapsulated Britain’s bounceback from a tough Tokyo Olympics, where they finished fourth by the barest of margins.
They only dealt in lengths of clear water last season, taking their first European titles by a yawning margin of six seconds and winning global gold by three seconds.
It means there’s no danger of Grant and Craig flying under the radar when Europe’s top rowers convene at Lake Bled, Slovenia from May 25-28.
“It’s a poisoned chalice,” said Grant. “Everyone wants to be the favourite, but it means you’ve got a target on your backs.
“That’s certainly on my mind as we try to defend our title. Ultimately, it’s where we want to be and we want to be good enough that everyone else is racing for second place.”
The catalyst for their emphatic bounceback was an extended period of time away from British Rowing’s training base at Caversham, post-Tokyo.
“We were still training but we were definitely doing different things and it gave us a lot of perspective,” said Grant.
“When we came back together last summer, we had a clear idea of what we wanted and how we’d want to do it. It just seemed to fly as soon as we got back into the boat.
“I can’t believe I’ve been on the team for this long, since my first senior World Championships in 2018.
“Every single year, it’s been about trying to get a little bit better. Last year felt like a bit of a breakthrough with that, winning the Europeans and then the Worlds in the way we did.”
Grant’s relief at coming into the final throes of a gruelling six-year medical degree at Cambridge University is palpable.
This winter’s training was tougher than ever and it’s a scary prospect for the rest of the world that Grant is about to train her sole focus on making the boat go faster.
“It’s been a pretty hectic last couple of years,” she said. “Medicine has been in my life longer than rowing has and finishing my medical degree well is very important to me.
“I’m looking forward to finishing that and giving rowing my 100%, rather than feeling like my focus is split.
“It’s something I’m really excited to see, without juggling the two, how much more there is in the tank for me.
“This winter is the most training I’ve ever done, and I think it’s the same for Emily and the wider squad too. I hope we can step on from last year.”
British Rowing is the governing body for the sport and is responsible for the development of rowing in England and the training and selection of rowers to represent Great Britain. The GB Rowing Team is supported by the National Lottery Sports Fund. To find out more, and to follow the team, head to https://www.britishrowing.org/