Our ‘Outstanding Athlete’ feature in each issue is about an athlete who goes above and beyond the norm and does something word class, unique or contributes something truly outstanding. Katherine Grainger could be here if for nothing else other than her amazing achievements in the sport of Rowing. Her Honour Roll is remarkable by any standard:
2012: Olympic Games, London Double Sculls GOLD
2011: World Championships Double Sculls GOLD
2010: World Championships Double sculls GOLD
2009: World Championships Single Sculls SILVER
2008: Olympic Games, Beijing Quadruple Sculls SILVER
2007: World Championships Quadruple Sculls GOLD
2006: World Championships Quadruple Sculls GOLD
2005: World Championships Quadruple Sculls GOLD
2004: Olympic Games, Athens Coxless Pair SILVER
2003: World Championships Coxless Pair GOLD
2000: Olympic Games, Sydney Quadruple Sculls SILVER
1997: World Championships Eight BRONZE
1997: World under 23 Championships Coxless Pair GOLD
What takes her to a different level is having won gold in more than one rowing discipline across her career. However, the only gold that eluded her was the Olympic gold medal. Having won silver in each of the three previous Olympic games the question was not only whether she would be able to compete, but more so, could she win that elusive gold? As the saying goes, the rest is history - and millions of people the world over saw her win gold in great style in front of a home crowd. This capped off what has been an amazing career to date.
When we met up we talked about every aspect of rowing, sport, training and the glory of winning Olympic medals. Much has been written about how Katherine pulled through and how she achieved so much and won Olympic gold on home soil, as well as all the evocative images of the race that were captured on the day.
However, the thing that stood out for me was that Katherine was incredibly humble and very clear that yes, she won the medals, but that actually it was the team behind her that mattered. “Not everyone gets the name, success etc., but each medal is made up of
so many people and jobs. They don’t want or need to be known and that’s so impressive. The team is bigger than the two people on the podium,” she says reflecting on an area not often heard of being talked about by athletes. This is a big statement, but Katherine is truly passionate about this subject, and it seems to be part of what drives her.
This is an athlete who may be on the water with another athlete, but in her mind and her motivation as well as her awareness, it is about the team: the greater group of people who support her and whom she credits with fixing her and putting her back together each time. “The sense of responsibility for all the other people…you want to win for them, as it does justice to their work and it enhances the whole performance.”
It is incredible that not only does this drive Katherine, but that she is so at ease talking about it and highlighting the whole world of support staff.
This shows a depth of character, someone who is comfortable in her own skin and with her achievements,but who is also aware of her weaknesses and those around her who support her - and is happy to acknowledge it and talk about it. To master this is a life journey and she has arrived in spectacular style.
Katherine’s final words of the interview were “they (the support team) feel part of that team - and they so, so are.” What an incredible place to be to think and say that, when you have won so many medals and could so easily be self-centred. So yes, Katherine
could be here for a number of reasons - but for me her character and ability to recognise the support team with such selflessness has put her in this small but amazing group of Outstanding Athletes.
It was a privilege to spend time with someone like this.