Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Gold medallist halts quest for Rio place

ANNA WATKINS, who became Leander’s first-ever female gold medallist at London 2012, has pulled out of her attempt

ANNA WATKINS, who became Leander’s first-ever female gold medallist at London 2012, has pulled out of her attempt to make a spectacular comeback in time for the Rio Games.

When she became Olympic champion four years ago in the women’s double sculls, the home crowd at Eton Dorney had more than one reason to celebrate.

The Leander athlete had become the club’s first-ever woman Olympic gold medallist, during four memorable days of finals which Great Britain topped the medal table in rowing. And for her doubles partner, Katherine Grainger, the occasion marked a golden moment after the disappointment of three consecutive Olympic silvers.

Like so many athletes before, Watkins chose that moment to retire from the sport in which she had won such success. Settling back into a life away from elite sport she and husband Oli welcomed two baby boys into the world, but last year she made headlines once again, by announcing her return to rowing, as she attempted to become the first Olympic champion ever to defend her title after the births of two children.

She was determined to relive the goals and sense of purpose she had enjoyed in pursuing her dreams, but this week came the announcement after a gradual realisation that Rio was one step too far.

Watkins said: “I realised what a gulf I had to make up - I was fit enough on the ergometer but race sharpness was another matter. What I needed was not just another training session, but maybe another year or so.”

A brief look around, to see how she might add something to another crew, confirmed her fears and she withdrew from the team.

She added: “I’d had some tension in my mind for a number of weeks, first after December trials, and again after our training camp in Majorca, but the balance has now shifted, between the personal cost of following the programme, and the eventual outcome.

“We’ve done the experiment, and I’ve done everything I could, to see how far I could get - I’ve no regrets.

“I’ve been part of a team, I enjoyed finding my limits again, and it’s nice to find peace of mind. That’s why I know it’s the right decision.”

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