Team GB’s Top Kat
[newsimage=0]When Kat Copeland and Sophie Hosking lined up for the final of the London 2012 Women’s Lightweight Double Sculls, few outside the rowing world would have been familiar with one of the GB Rowing Team’s most recent match-ups.
Seven minutes and 9.30 seconds later, the pair had written their own piece of sporting history – crossing the finish line to win GB’s first Olympic gold medal for women’s lightweight rowing.
The Stream caught up with 21-year-old Kat in the aftermath of her extraordinary triumph, discovering a young rower still struggling to come to terms with the scale of her success.
“It’s been crazy! I’ve been so busy – it feels like I’m living a different life now. We got to meet so many amazing people. We met the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, which was just… I don’t know… you just don’t get to meet people like that in real life!”
Kat and Sophie were first put together in the women’s lightweight double in March, after placing first and second in the GB Rowing Team Senior Trials earlier in the month.
A silver medal in the first World Cup of the season in Belgrade was swiftly followed by fifth and fourth-placed finishes in Lucerne and Munich, leaving the imposing Chinese and Greek crews as favourites for the top medals going into London 2012.
“People keep saying that we came out of nowhere and we over-delivered, but that’s just because all they’ve had to go on was the World Cups – the second, fifth and fourth.
“You have to remember that we were only put together a month before the first World Cup! Compared to other crews who have been together for years, we didn’t have very long.
[newsimage=1]“So, for us, the World Cups were just about getting together, trying different things and seeing how it all worked.”
Despite the mixed results on the World Cup circuit Kat remained confident that the fledgling double had all the right attributes to win a medal, with their performances in training providing plenty of cause for optimism.
“When we were at camp, we knew we were going quickly. We were getting some really good times. So I think we were quietly confident that we had the potential to do well [at London 2012], but we just had to see how we would do when it was the Olympics and when the pressure was on.
“When we first got put together, we sat down and said ‘right, what’s our aim?’ and I said ‘to win in the summer!’ Even at that point, I knew that once I was in the boat, Sophie’s just so strong and we had a lot of potential. It just felt so powerful in the boat, so I knew that if we could blend together then we could do well – it was just if we could do it in time.”
The scale of Kat’s achievements over the last two years is breathtaking. The Tees-born rower followed up a second-placed finish at the GB Rowing Team Senior Trials in 2011 with a gold medal at the World Rowing U23 Championships in the same year.
“At the start of the year, I thought it was only 50/50 that I’d get in the boat! I never would have dreamed that I’d be sitting here now having won an Olympic gold medal.
[newsimage=2]“All this has happened a lot quicker than I thought it would. I always thought I’d be going to Rio, and everything’s just happened so quickly – before I was expecting it to.
“I’ve surprised myself a bit, so hopefully this will have given me a bit more confidence for the future.”
As to what that future might hold, the 21-year-old is in no rush to decide.
“Everyone asks what I’m going to do, but I just don’t know yet. I’m going to have a bit of a break and have a think in September.”
However, with a gold medal draped around her neck and a place in the annals of British rowing secured, Kat’s passion for her sport is obvious.
“As a ‘job’ (or whatever it is!), I think that rowing is the best thing you can do. I love it. If you’ve got a chance, I think it’s a privilege to go and do sport and do something you love. It’s not always happy happy, but in general it’s pretty cool!
“I just hope my life doesn’t change too much. I’ve had a really good time these past couple of years – I love my life! If I did carry on to the next Olympics, I’d be training to win.”