Olympic rower Katherine Grainger is determined to turn silver into gold at her fourth attempt.
The 36-year-old World Champion from Bearsden was competing in the final heats at Eton-Dorney on Tuesday and booked her place in the final tomorrow (Friday) with Anna Watkins in the women’s double scull event.
And the pair did it in some style, smashing a 20-year-old Olympic record by nearly five seconds to win their heat and give them the best chance yet of securing an Olympic gold on home turf.
The former Bearsden Academy student and her rowing partner beat world bronze medalists New Zealand by almost two lengths to win their heat in an Olympic best time of six minutes 44.33 seconds – breaking the record set by Germany at the 1992 Barcelona games.
After 20 strokes Grainger and Watkins were more than half a length up over the field and quickly established a large lead from then onwards. Behind them New Zealand and China battled bow-ball to bow-ball before the Antipodeans prevailed to take the qualifying slot and force the Chinese into the repechage.
Grainger – winner of three silver medals at previous Olympics – said: “Part of me thought it would be good to see how fast we could go and we certainly have more, but the final is the big one. No-one will remember on Friday who won the heat. The Olympic final is what it is all about now. It is different from any other race we’ll ever race in and this is the most important one.”
Watkins added: “It was a wonderful bonus and a fantastic confidence boost that we are absolutely on track.
“We could not be in a better place mentally, we know that we’ve got more and we know exactly how to get that out of ourselves. The final’s what it’s all about.”
GB Rowing Team Performance Director David Tanner said: “With all the heats completed we have placed ourselves in a strong position to step through the next rounds and gain more final places.”
Grainger and Staffordshire’s Watkins are part of a team of 48 rowers at London 2012 and even though rowing is one of the sports that Britain excel in, none of the participants are under any illusions that winning a gold will be easy.
Paul Thompson, Katherine Grainger’s coach said she had won three silvers in previous Olympics and is hoping it will be fourth time lucky in London.
RECORD BREAKERS . . . Anna Watkins and Katherine Grainger who smashed a 20 year old record to qualify for Friday’s Olympic final are pictured on the right. Images courtesy of Intersport Images/GB Rowing Team