‘We just got in the boat and tried to get it to go fast’

Para-rowing world champions James Fox and Anna Corderoy discuss winning gold in Sarasota and bonding as a crew with just eight week’s together


The PR3 mixed coxed four at the 2017 World Rowing Championships - Naomi Baker

Great Britain continued its domination of the PR3 mixed coxed four classification in major events, winning its seventh successive title at World and Paralympic level at the 2017 World Rowing Championships in Sarasota-Bradenton.

Off the back of an incredible golden Paralympiad, culminating with the win in Rio de Janeiro last September, the GB crew overcame a number of obstacles to reach the start line in Florida, and then arrived at the finish line in a new world best time in the final.

James Fox and Grace Clough were the ones to return to the boat from the Paralympic triumph, joined by three newcomers – Ollie Stanhope, Giedre Rakauskaite and Anna Corderoy.

British Rowing caught up with two of them to get their stories from a memorable week in Sarasota.

The reigning champ
Heading into the 2017 Championships, James Fox already had three world titles and a Paralympic gold medal, but that didn’t diminish his appetite to further add to his impressive CV.

Even though the new crew only came together eight weeks before the Worlds was due to start, Fox wasn’t worried about a lack of cohesion.

“We just got in the boat and tried to get it to go fast,” said Fox, who spent time racing with Leander Club this summer. “In club rowing you don’t get a lot of time together to make it click. You may do a few outings a week after work, and then at weekends – you put crews together very quickly.

“I always say that we get 90% of our speed in the first outing we ever do and the last 10% comes from polishing it. I think we did a really good job of coming together this year.”

In Thursday’s preliminary race, Fox and co sailed to victory by 21 seconds over the USA to set a new world best time. The host nation went 10 seconds quicker in the final, but so did GB, lowering their record to 6:55.70 to take their place in the middle of the podium.

“I didn’t expect to win by so much. I think that makes the win really sweet and it gives us a lot of confidence going into next season,” Fox added. “But this World Championships was a building year for us and probably was a building year for the other nations as well. So we have to keep things in perspective – the big one will be in three years’ time.”

The rookie
Coming into a successful team can be quite daunting for a new athlete, but cox Anna Corderoy knew she wanted to be part of something special. She told her coach at Molesey BC that she wanted to be part of the GB system and he advised her to get stuck in, head to trials, meet some athletes and get her name out there.

While the coxing positions in the Olympic boats were filled, the Para crew were looking for a replacement for Oliver James, who hung up his microphone after Rio.

“To start with it was very daunting, but in a positive way,” Corderoy said. “I wanted to do a good job and make the transition as seamless as I could make it.

“I think the nice thing about this season is that we’ve tried to see ourselves as our own crew. We’ve got the legacy of the boat behind us, but we’ve tried to move forward as a completely independent new crew and we’ve all got our strengths and weaknesses. I think that has made the win all the more rewarding, because we know it’s been our success.

“We knew that we only had a short time frame to work with, so we had to be quite efficient and focused in the way we were working. We had eight weeks to get to the standard we needed to be and it was a very intense eight weeks.”

Corderoy was the first over the line as GB set both their record times, with the emotions hitting her in the closing stages of the final. She admits, though, that in the final she was not aware of the gap the crew had opened on the US boat, but the plan all along was to execute the perfect time trial.

“In the first race I knew that we were quite far ahead, but we had another gear. Then I knew that the focus was a technical one. We didn’t wind up for the finish, but for the final we always intended to row the race plan exactly as it was written.

“I could see we were ahead but I was never sure how close people were to us. So we had to keep racing as if someone was on our tail and keep the crew totally committed. We wanted to get 6:55 and we knew what we needed to look for in terms of the splits to achieve that.

“The emotions probably hit me in the last 100m; realising that I was calling our last 10 strokes. I told them to enjoy it and to go hard for our coach. It was over a year of hard work and build up and it hits you all at once when you realise you’ve achieved what you set out there to do and you’re number one in the world.”

Do you want to learn more about getting in to Para-rowing? You could form part of our Tokyo 2020 squad by signing up to our Para-rowing Talent ID programme. Click here for more information.

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