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Imogen Grant excels in studies and rowing on rapid rise to the top

Imogen Grant has made an immediate on the rowing scene. Picture: Keith Heppell
Imogen Grant has made an immediate on the rowing scene. Picture: Keith Heppell

Call-up to Great Britain squad maintains swift development

Imogen Grant is not getting carried away by a first call-up to the Great Britain senior squad.

The 22-year-old was named in the lightweight single scull for the opening World Rowing Cup regatta in Belgrade this week, only four years after taking up the sport.

The rapid route to the top has seen her go from college rowing to two winning Women’s Boat Race crews to the national under-23s team and now the senior squad.

However, it is the age-group level on which the Trinity College medical student remains focused and the learning from last year’s World Under-23 Championships when this season’s edition comes round in Poland on July.

“This is my last year of being an under-23,” said Grant, who is from Cambridge and went to what is now called the Stephen Perse Foundation.

“Last year, going to the under-23s for the first time was this huge new experience, it was really exciting. We came fifth in the quad, so this year I know what I want and I want a medal. I know more about what I need to do to get there.”

Grant’s ability is evident by inclusion in the senior squad, but she is prepared to bide her time, and will use the trip to Serbia – where she will be accompanied by CUWBC chief coach Rob Baker – as a valuable experience.

“It would be amazing to do some stuff with the seniors but the best way to get there is excelling at under-23s first,” she said.

“It’s a senior regatta [in Belgrade] which will be really useful for me just in terms of racing experience.

“I feel like it’s too early to set my sights on anything in particular. There are a lot of really good lightweight girls already in the senior squad.

“I’ve been able to do a little bit of training with some of them now. I’ve just been able to learn so much from rowing in doubles with them and hopefully I can just continue with the improvement I’m seeing at the moment.”

The development of Grant in the sport clearly shows that she is a quick learner, and that is amplified by the fact that she has had to adjust her styles significantly this season.

Sweep rowing with the eight at CUWBC, Grant has also had to perfect the art of sculling – and there were only three weeks between the Women’s Boat Race and the final trials for the national squad.

“For me, because I learnt as a sweep rower and then sculling afterwards, it’s always been a little difficult because I think I do feel more comfortable in a sweep boat as that’s what I’ve done for longer,” she said.

“The way I always think about it, rowing in a single, sculling, improves your sweep rowing because it improves your understanding of how to move a boat; but I don’t think that necessarily works in the opposite direction.

“So spending time in a sweep boat doesn’t make me better at sculling.”

It has therefore been vital to work with Baker.

Grant is in her fourth year of medicine, which means clinical school, so the demands on her time are even greater. And getting the balance of sport and academia is even more difficult.

“Rob is really great,” she said. “I have been at CUWBC for three years now so I’ve got a really good relationship with him as a coach and he understands very much what I need to do in terms of the medical side of things to get things done so he can be flexible with me as well.

“Every so often something fits through the cracks and then it’s panic, all hands on deck to try to figure this out.

“A lot of people wouldn’t even think about trying to do it, but that was never an option for me.

“It was more coming to the table with ‘right, how am I going to make this work, because I will make it work because I want to do both of them’.”


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