Imogen Grant is not afraid to be ambitious as she and partner Emily Craig plot to extend their unbeaten run at the upcoming World Championships in Belgrade with Olympic gold the main objective.
Grant, 27, and lightweight women’s double sculls partner Craig have formed an unbeatable pair since the Tokyo Olympic Games, beating anyone who crossed their path, landing two European gold medals and last year’s world title.
Now the duo head to Serbia to defend that crown, with the added carrot of securing Olympic qualification for the boat in Paris next year, where they would surely be considered clear favourites for gold.
That is the Cambridge rower’s singular ambition, with the pair looking to avenge a fourth-place finish in Japan when they missed the podium by one hundredth of a second and taking advantage of a stay of execution in their event.
🏆2023 World Rowing Championships 🏆
The #GBRowingTeam are tackling 7 days of racing in Belgrade, Serbia 🇷🇸 🇬🇧
Find live results on the British Rowing website 👇 https://t.co/kUeNKs5I4l
Watch the racing on @WorldRowing's live stream 👇 https://t.co/fQ1ppa633I pic.twitter.com/v1Z30ezX0H
— British Rowing (@BritishRowing) September 4, 2023
She said: “Gold is the target and that is kind of exciting and kind of terrifying, Tokyo was supposed to be the last Olympics with lightweight rowing in it and a strange benefit of the pandemic meant Paris also has the event we race in it.
“We wouldn’t be here if that was not the case and the last two years and by next year, the last three years, we have really been training and racing with one goal in mind.
“We don’t think about it every day because I think that would be a bit overwhelming but certainly every competition, whether that be Europeans or Worlds is really just a stepping stone for what the long goal is – reigning Olympic champions has quite a nice ring to it.
“We often talk about not just racing the other people out there from the other nations, we are also racing ourselves.
“We have very high standards for ourselves in training and in racing and so far it has been going really well, so there is no reason for it to go any other way at the moment.”
Although the duo are now unbeaten in two years, Grant is under no illusions that the World Championships will be a completely different challenge, not least due to Olympic qualification.
“A qualification Worlds always comes with a little bit of added intensity, for some nations, their goal will literally just be to come in the top seven and to qualify their boat, which might be the biggest result they could ever hope for in their rowing career,” she added.
They've done it! 🇬🇧
With the first 3 places in the A/B Semi Final going to the 2024 Olympic Games, Imogen Grant and Emily Craig qualify the lightweight women's double sculls for @Paris2024!@TNLUK @teamGB pic.twitter.com/7cl4dv3wkh
— British Rowing (@BritishRowing) September 7, 2023
“It can lead to incredibly intense racing but ultimately, we have been through a qualification Worlds before in 2019 and we know what to do one step at a time to get the results that we want.”
Grant recently finished her medicine degree at Trinity College, Cambridge and is now enjoying her added freedom without university commitments, something she will continue to do until Paris, admitting that her plans beyond 2024 are up in the air.
She continued: “I graduated a couple of months ago now and so far I have been enjoying not having to spin a million plates and really get stuck into the rowing.
“The next 12 months it is laser focused on the rowing but after Paris, it is a big question mark. You never quite know how you are going to feel when you have finished the race and what you are going to want from rowing, or from medicine afterwards, I will have to see.
“I earn more as a lottery-funded athlete than I will as a foundation doctor and it is an incredible privilege to be able to do what we do and that is down to the National Lottery funding that we receive.”
British Rowing is searching for the next generation of GB Rowing Olympians & Paralympians - could that be you? The Olympic Pathway programme recruits and develops individuals with no prior rowing experience who have the potential to become Olympic rowers. Learn more at britishrowing.org/performance-development-academies. Similarly, visit our website to learn more about our successful Paralympic Programme and register for testing: https://www.britishrowing.org/gb-rowing-team/para/. The GB Rowing Team is supported by the National Lottery Sports Fund.