Katherine Grainger podcast

026: Dame Katherine Grainger on persistence and resilience

In this engaging interview, Katherine Grainger, Great Britain’s most decorated female Olympic athlete, shares insights from her extraordinary career. She talks about her experiences at five consecutive Olympics, culminating in a gold medal at the London 2012 Games and a fifth medal at the Rio 2016 Games. Katherine was later honored in the 2017 New Year’s Honours List and appointed Chair of UK Sport.

Starting with her first Olympic experience in Sydney in 2000, Katherine describes the immense physical and mental preparation she undertook. She discusses the challenges and benefits of transitioning to senior-level professional sport, becoming a sponge for wisdom from others, and surviving an incredibly intense training regimen.

Katherine mentions the importance of having goals, like making the podium at the Sydney Olympics, and how learning from inspirational figures like Steve Redgrave played a crucial role in her success. She talks about the psychological tactics she employed to intimidate opponents and how the experience of losing in Beijing was a significant disappointment but also a learning experience.

The interview covers her ability to “relax in chaos,” particularly during the London 2012 Games where she won a gold medal with her partner Anna Watkins. Katherine describes it as a privilege to compete in front of a home crowd at the peak of her career. She also emphasizes the importance of team dynamics, highlighting that every individual matters and contributes to collective highs and lows.

Katherine rounds off the interview by reflecting on key figures who have impacted her career and what advice she would give to her younger self. According to her, enjoying the journey and persisting in your individual path is key, as the lessons learned along the way are invaluable.


3:17 – Reflecting on the moments before the Sydney Olympic final and the physical and mental preparation Katherine adopted on final’s day.

7:05 – Exploring Katherine’s transition into senior professional sport and senior training as a rower, an incredibly draining period both physically and emotionally. Also having to transition with professional coaching and sports science support with new lottery funding.

8:45 – As a youngster Katherine became a sponge when around others, trying to soak up as much experience and wisdom from anybody around her.

9:30 – Thrown into an unrelentingly physical training programme. Sink or swim moments.

12:30 – The goal to make the podium at the Sydney Olympic games. Any medal would have been deemed a huge success, but the silver might be nice!

15:28 – The benefits of learning from inspirational others such as Steve Redgrave and co. Surround yourself with others who share your dreams.

18:37 – Intimidating your opponent. Beating them before you get on the start line.

21:00 – 3 consecutive World Championship successes in the 4 year lead up to Beijing. Knowing what it takes to win. Losing to the Chinese and not achieving gold in Beijing was a huge disappointment.

27:40 – Responding to the big emotional lull after the disappointment in Beijing.

30:10 – Reflecting on the intensity of the battle, Katherine reflects on the hugely valuable ability to relax in chaos.

31:30 – London 2012. Gold medal winners. Katherine had an amazing partnership with Anna Watkins as a double.

35:05 – It was an immense privilege for Katherine to have taken part in front of a home games crowd, particularly at the peak of her career.

40:50 – Being a part of an amazing team at Team GB. Everyone matters, sharing experiences and the huge highs and lows of this level of involvement.

41:55 – Katherine reflects back on the important others that have played a part in her career and her love for being a part of a team.

44:35 – Katherine would tell her younger self to enjoy and persist with your own journey wherever that takes you. The lessons learned, and the experiences will be hugely valuable.

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