Olympic champions Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins revealed that their planning for London 2012 didn’t extend beyond the finish line as they discussed their experiences of life after professional sport.
Grainger, as UK Sport Chair, and Watkins, as BEAA CEO, were talking following the launch of the British Elite Athletes Alumni platform: a digital service exclusively for former World Class Programme athletes to connect on.
The pair won gold together in the 2012 double sculls, breaking the Olympic record in the semi-final.
“Everything was planned and structured,” Grainger said. “A 2000-metre race, and we didn’t know what happens at 2001 metres. Our lives almost stopped at that point because that’s all we’d planned for and whatever happened then would be a brave new future.”
Watkins said she feels most athletes retain their desire to compete after retiring, as research shows maintaining a sense of athlete identity can help with the transition.
“That sense of being an athlete and always feeling like I am, you know, deep inside me still an athlete, I don’t think I’ll ever really lose that,” she said. “It’s shaped who I am.
“I’ve got a lovely family, everything is really good – and yet the athlete part of me is still there. I think: ‘Well, if it’s there for me and I still feel that pull and that will there, then it must be there for us all.’”
Grainger agreed, adding: “It’s pride, isn’t it? I was so proud to be an athlete. It was an amazing, amazing time. Like you say, it shapes so much of who you become. So in a way it’s probably hard that you don’t let it go easily but it’s probably good because it’s such a big part of your life, and that’s okay.”
Any athletes formerly on the World Class Programme can join the new alumni platform by emailing email@example.com.
Any athlete struggling having left the WCP in the last six months is entitled to BEAA support. Reach out via:
Image credit: Getty Images via UK Sport