‘We go in as a blank canvas but we know deep down that this boat hasn’t lost for a good number of years’

Paralympic champion Grace Clough discusses the tough year experienced by the PR3 mixed coxed four ahead of the 2018 World Rowing Championships


The GB PR3 mixed coxed four train in Varese (Naomi Baker)

It has been nearly eight years since a crew other than one from Great Britain was victorious in the PR3 mixed coxed four at the World Rowing Championships.

The unbeaten run in finals also spans the Paralympic Games in London and Rio, and since the event was introduced to international competition in 2004, GB have only been beaten three times in finals at the World Championships and Paralympic Games .

Of those many victories, Grace Clough has been involved in the last four – three World Championship titles and gold at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

The Sheffield rower heads into the 2018 World Championships with three new faces in the boat from 2017 – one of which, Daniel Brown, rowed in the Paralympic boat in 2016.

James Fox and Giedre Rakauskaite underwent surgery in the spring, which has ruled them out of the 2018 season, with newcomers Ellen Buttrick and cox Erin Wysocki-Jones coming in to join Clough, Brown and the returning Ollie Stanhope.

“We go in as a blank canvas but we all know deep down that this boat hasn’t lost for a good number of years,” said Clough, who has also battled injury for much of the season.

“Even the people coming in have had illnesses and minor injuries, so it just hasn’t been an ideal scenario.

“We’ve got a fantastic support network here, with the medical team, coaching staff and physiotherapists and with the backing of National Lottery funding we’re managing to put something on the line that is to a very high standard.

“When we have the chance to shine we are shining quite brightly.”

2018 has already had a number of high moments for Clough. Not only was she elected to the British Paralympic Association’s Athlete Commission but she also gained a Masters in Sociology from the University of Oxford.

The 27-year-old says she struggled at times as she burned the candle at both ends by rowing and studying after Rio 2016, but the hard work paid off on both fronts in the end.

“At the start of this season I handed my thesis in and found out six weeks ago that I passed,” she said.

“The stress of the year before was worth it with the pass – I never thought I’d be able to say I had a Masters from Oxford. I’ve had one win this season, so I just need some good racing in Plovdiv to get another.”

The World Rowing Championships get underway un Plovdiv on Sunday, 9 September. You can watch all of the racing on the World Rowing website, as well as following along on British Rowing’s social media channels.