British women head search for rowing gold

Nick Reeves
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Britain's Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins won the double sculls at the 2011 world rowing championships in Slovenia

Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins of Great Britain compete in women's double sculls at the 2011 world rowing championships in Slovenia

If there were gold medals on offer at London 2012 for devotees of detective and crime series then Katherine Grainger would make a killing.

The 36-year-old oarswoman is an avid follower of programmes like CSI, Columbo and Sherlock - the hours glued to the box 'research' she explains for her PhD in homicide at London's King's University.

Grainger, as double skulls world champion with Anna Watkins, is spearheading the quest by Britain's women for a first ever Olympic title that has meant reluctantly reaching for the TV remote and pressing pause on her small screen heroes as she concentrates on events on the water at Eton Dorney.

"It's very difficult because without planning it both my Olympic career and my PhD have met at the same time and the culmination for both is 2012," the Scot told the BBC.

Grainger, who is seeking to go one better after picking up silver in each of the last three Olympics, stressed: "The Olympics is utterly my priority, everything falls to that and if there are any distractions it will disappear.

"I can't afford to let the PhD be a stress or a distraction."

The Glaswegian happily admits she watches "everything from Murder She Wrote to Law & Order, CSI, Sherlock".

"I pretend it's work, so if I haven't been to the library or written many chapters, I think 'at least I put some hours in watching those educational programmes'.

"I spent years studying law and you learn to argue incredibly well. I try to argue that those hours I put in watching a Columbo double-bill mean I need a rest now, although my supervisor isn't quite on board with that yet!"

Team GB were out testing the Eton Dorney waters on Thursday ahead of the start of competition on Saturday with performance director David Tanner upbeat about their prospects.

"We're all in good shape, we've all arrived healthy and we're ready to go," he said.

"Our recent training camps have gone well. We managed to escape the not-so-nice bits of the British summer and that was a big plus with great water conditions, particularly at our tuning camps in Southern Europe.

"I am sure that this is the best team that we have brought to a Games and I am confident that we will deliver on the water."

Rowing legend Sir Steve Redgrave has hung a four gold medal target over the host nation's head, double the Brits' Beijing haul.

Team GB came away from two key London lead-up events in Belgrade and Lausanne with a combined total of seven gold medals leaving the knighted oarsman in optimistic mood.

"Overall I'm slightly disappointed in the British team so far this year but my target is four gold medals this summer, and that is still possible," Redgrave, who won gold at five consecutive Olympics, said.

Britain's greatest Olympian added: "The women's pair and double scull look well on their game, the men's four are favourites with the Aussies scrapping at their heels, and the men's lightweight double and lightweight coxless four still have great chances.

"All five of those boats could take gold on their day."

Redgrave's optimism is shared by Tanner.

He said: "We are strongly ambitious and well prepared. This is our best team, no question. We have greater strength and depth than we have ever had and we definitely have some excellent medal chances in our team."

Romania's Georgeta Andrunache will overtake Redgrave's gold medal tally if she and Viorica Susanu win their fourth successive Olympic gold in the coxless pairs in what would be a sixth gold for Andrunache.

The United States are hot favourites to continue their domination in the women's eights.