Anna Watkins is an Olympic champion and two time world champion, in the double sculls with Katherine Grainger. In Beijing Anna came within 0.23 seconds of a gold medal in the tightest finish of the Olympic regatta. Missing out on not only the gold but also the silver taught Anna valuable lessons about seizing opportunities and the importance of racing with passion and belief.
Anna’s journey to Olympic gold was far from straightforward. A year before the Olympics, whilst suffering from an acute back injury, Anna had to tell Katherine to find another partner for the games. Two months later, having fought her way back to fitness to race the world championships but underprepared, Anna caught norovirus in the middle of the week-long regatta. The double blow should have ruled them out, but they went on to win gold and qualify for the Olympics.
Anna describes how a small rowing boat works in practise- the tactics, the steering and how the perfect synchronicity is arrived at. This is developed whilst managing a season that requires Anna and Katherine to compete against each other in closely contested and vital trials for six months of the year- and then team up united against the world for the other six months.
In the boat part of Anna’s role is to make the technical and tactical calls. Katherine can’t see Anna and Anna can’t hear Katherine. Anna explains how detailed two way communication is possible under these circumstances, through trust and empathy.
Katherine and Anna were under an intense spotlight going into London as Katherine had already won three silver medals from three previous Olympics- nothing less than the gold would do. The two women have a unique partnership that enables them to support each other and deal with this pressure. Each learning valuable lessons from their respective defeats in Beijing, when they joined forces they found the other could provide the missing ingredients. Anna’s attention to detail, technical vision and planning combined with Katherine’s passion and intensity created an unstoppable partnership that remains unbeaten to this day.