Katherine Grainger, an honorary graduate of the University of St Andrews, won a silver medal in the double sculls yesterday to become the most decorated British woman in Olympic history.
Grainger received the Doctor of Laws honorary degree from the University in 2013 (the same year she was awarded her CBE for services to rowing) following her London heroics and therefore was always going to be amongst the key names for students and alumni to look out for.
Grainger and her partner Victoria Thornley almost missed out on selection for these Games but once in Rio the pair progressed serenely to the final. A second place in their heat saw them through and then they repeated that feat in the semi-finals to secure a berth in the double sculls final as the fourth fastest crew, behind the Polish, Greeks and Lithuanians.
The final, however, looked like it might be the British crew’s race, as Grainger and Thornley powered out of the blocks and led for most of the race, before eventually being overhauled by the impressive Polish pair Magdalena Fularczyk-Kozlowska and Natalia Madaj.
The British pair had done enough for silver, thereby securing Britain’s first rowing medal of these Games. The medal was the fifth in Grainger’s impressive career, adding to her silver medals from Sydney, Athens and Beijing and her astonishing gold in London four years ago. This tally now takes her past swimmer Rebecca Adlington as the most decorated female British Olympian.
Given that Grainger is now 40 and almost missed the Games, this medal is arguably her biggest achievement aside from the Gold medal and now looks to be the fitting end to an astonishing rowing career that began all the way back in 1997.
The longevity and determination shown by Grainger are second to none and serve as a real inspiration to aspiring rowers across the UK and further afield but also to those in other walks of life who think opportunities may have passed them by.