Grainger’s golden moment gets my vote

Kath Grainger (left) and her crewmate Anna Watkins fulfil a lifetime’s ambition at Eton Dorney earlier this year

#SJA2012 Who gets your vote? IAN COLE makes the case for Kath Grainger to have SJA members’ support for Sportswoman of the Year

Let’s get one thing straight. Katherine Grainger doesn’t do second. Britain’s premier oarswoman has stood on the Olympic rostrum with a silver medal around her neck on too many occasions for her liking. So in 2012 she was determined to do something about it in her Olympic swansong.

Some have called Grainger a female Steve Redgrave, who famously declared after his fourth rowing gold in Atlanta : “If anyone sees me getting into a boat they have my permission to shoot me.”

Like Redgrave, however, Grainger is made of stronger stuff and there was never a chance the 36-year-old from Scotland would row off into the sunset with her quest for gold incomplete.

Gold at last: Kath Grainger, Olympic champion

Consider the circumstances. Grainger was competing in the double sculls at her final Olympic Games on the lake at Eton Dorney. Her form figures from Beijing, Athens and Sydney – in a mixture of quadrupule sculls and coxless pairs – were second, second and second. An excellent CV, you might think, which also includes six world championship golds.

But Grainger wanted that elusive Olympic gold and, with Anna Watkins as her magnificent partner – they are unbeaten in 23 races – she was going to get it.

Helen Glover and Heather Stanning had already set the standard for the first week of the London Games by securing Britain’s first ever Olympic women’s rowing gold.

Grainger and Watkins had qualified for their final by setting a world record. They sprinted away at the start with the Australian pair of Brooke Pratley and Kim Crowe in pursuit. The Brits were half a length ahead at 500m and three-quarters of a length in front at halfway.

The crowd rose as one as Grainger and Watkins drove purposely for the finish line.

At last Grainger was able to shed tears of joy, her mission fulfilled, the journey she began at Edinburgh University in 1993 at its glorious end.

Kath Grainger has been a contender at our SJA British Sports Awards since Athens in 2000 and collected the Spirit of Sport award in 2007. We haven’t had a Scottish winner of our major women’s prize since Liz McColgan and Yvonne Murray dominated on the athletics track more than 20 years ago.

For me, Grainger’s victory was the stand-out moment of the London 2012 Olympics. It was the moment that moved me to tears. For me, Katherine Grainger would be a fantastic Sportswoman of the Year.

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