It isn’t long now until the 2012 Olympic Games begin. The torch has passed through Cambridge, accompanied by lots of rain and fanfare. Whether you will be going down to London or watching the games on a screen, it is worth noting which athletes among Team GB Rowers have a training/racing history that includes Rob Roy Boat Club.
Light aircraft pilot, Brownie leader, wife of a Mercedes McLaren Formula One engineer, Phd Mathematics candidate, Anna Watkins describes both herself and her husband as ‘strong-willed, competitive, ambitious and determined to be the best in our fields.’ (This is Staffordshire, 30/10/09) Oliver Watkins was one of Anna’s first rowing coaches when she took up the sport at 18 years old to get fit at Newnham College, Cambridge.
A crewmate said Anna was “built for rowing” and encouraged her to test for Adrian Cassidy’s World Class Start programme, which she joined via Rob Roy Boat Club in 2003. Anna and the other World Class Start athletes, along with their coaches Adrian and Oli, were said in a club newsletter at the time to be ‘having a positive impact on the “greater life” of the club, by helping with coaching and trailering…’
Find out more about Anna’s early rowing experiences by following the link below:
Anna joins Katherine Grainger to crew the Women’s 2012 Olympic double scull. They have been coached by Paul Thompson. The stakes are high, particularly for 35 year-old Katherine, who may not want to train for another Olympics after this one. All eyes will be watching, including a very famous pair….
Katherine Grainger’s golden chance to finally win Olympic gold
In 2006, Anna told told Mike Rowbottom, ‘My personal ambition is the usual cliché – to win an Olympic gold medal…I will be 29 in 2012, which will be exactly the right age…’
Annie Vernon has a seat in the Women’s Olympic VIII, coached by Nick Strange.
She began rowing at 17, inspired by her father and older brother, both oarsmen. At Cambridge University, Annie was in the 2003 Blue Boat. In 2002, she began sculling for Rob Roy Boat Club as a World Class Start athlete, coached by Adrian Cassidy. Alongside her sculling, she continued to enjoy competitive VIII racing, as pictured above in RRBC’s Women’s VIII, racing to win the 2004 Trent Head. The VIII’s coach said ‘ In a foul headwind, they won by 30 seconds, underrating everyone else, but making a solid job of it.’ Crew list: Lizzie Grose, Miriam Taylor, Cherry Nolan, Annie Vernon, Anna Bebington, Mary Hood, Kerry Swift, Antonia Van Deventer, Emilia Ruiz.
Annie gained her first GB vest in 2004. Already an Olympic champion, Annie was crew in the Beijing 2008 quad that took silver.
Commenting in a Cornish newspaper on Stella McCartney’s designs for 2012’s Olympic kit, Annie shows her intense patriotic spirit: ‘It’s distinctive, it’s different, and it’s cool…Personally, I don’t want anything understated, I want Union Flag overload. The Olympics is the one fortnight of my life when patriotism goes into hyperdrive; by the final day in Beijing I would have gone into battle to defend the Queen, waving teabags and quoting Shakespeare left right and centre. I would happily walk into the closing ceremony as a Morris dancer, if that’s what is required.’
It has only been a few years since Charlie Cousins was rowing the Cam as a Robs member in RRBC’s M1 for Town Bumping Races. Now he is part of the GB Olympic quadruple scull crew, along with Stephen Rowbotham, Tom Solesbury and Matt Wells, coached by Mark Banks.
Charlie was invited to join the World Class Start Programme in 2004 after GB assessors visited his school. At 6’-6”, he admits a talent for basketball but had no inclination to row, nor any Olympic aspirations at that time. Reluctantly, he agreed to test as a sanction for messing about in class. He scored best in this region, top three in the country.
Charlie was taught to scull and row by Adrian Cassidy. During the years he raced for RRBC, he won:
2008 – Under-23 World Championships – Gold Double
2007 – Under-23 World Championships – 5th Double
2006 – Junior World Championships – Bronze Pair
‘The Beijing Olympics was the first time I ever sat down and watched the Games,’ Charlie told George Scott of Sportbeat during a 2009 interview. ‘Coming from Cambridge, the Boat Race is big, but I’d never watched it. I’d walked past the river hundreds of times but never thought about what those guys were doing….but suddenly a crazy idea seemed like a reality. From that point, being at the Olympics never seemed unreachable.’
To learn more about GB Team rowers visit: www.britishrowing.org/gb-rowing-team