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Development of an Athlete

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The 2012 Olympics showcased one of the most successful British Olympic teams ever. This was no accident, for seven years the country knew that the Olympics was coming back to Britain and everything had been committed to give athletes the best chance of success. Funding systems were in place, world class coaches, scientific experts, venues, training grounds, equipment all made sure athletes could compete with the rest of the world. And every athlete knew this might be the chance of a lifetime. But athletes had also taken a lifetime to get to this point – athletes who began their sport as children in clubs, schools and universities all over the country. Athletes, who learned constantly, developed and challenged themselves while committing to being the best they could possibly be. I’ll chart the development of an athlete looking back at the past 4 Olympics that I’ve competed in and witness how the landscape of British sport, and specifically rowing, has changed.


Katherine Grainger is Britain’s most successful international female rower. Originally from Glasgow, Katherine studied at Edinburgh University, where she took up the sport in 1993.

Her international rowing career began in 1997 and since that time, she has won 6 world championships, 3 Olympic silver medals, (Sydney, Athens & Beijing) and in 2012 she won the Olympic gold with Anna Watkins in the double scull. Katherine is the only British female athlete from any sport to win medals in four consecutive Olympic Games.

She was awarded an MBE in 2006, and a CBE for services to sport in 2012.

Katherine has an honours LLB from Edinburgh University, an MPhil in Medical Law and Medical Ethics from Glasgow University, and achieved a PhD in the Law of Homicide at Kings College, London. Alongside her studies, Katherine wrote her autobiography ‘Dreams Do Come True’ which was published in June 2013.

Following a 2-year break from rowing, Katherine has recently returned to full-time training with her sights set on the Rio Olympics in 2016.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Lecture Series series.

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