YORKSHIRE’S defending Olympic rowing champion Kat Copeland says her sport’s Team GB squad is even stronger approaching Rio than it was ahead of London 2012.
Copeland and Sophie Hosking steered Britain to one of four golds in London, with their women’s lightweight double sculls triumph part of a table-topping haul of nine medals that also included two silvers and three bronze.
The 25-year-old will now look to defend her title with new partner Charlotte Taylor in South America and Yorkshire’s young face of rowing is confident of another impressive return.
Reflecting on the strength of the Team GB rowing squad four years on from London 2012, Stokesley-based Copeland told The Yorkshire Post: “I would say it is definitely stronger but it has to be because everything moves on so much. To keep being competitive we have to be stronger and we are. I think one Rio advantage we have got is that we have good crews across the board so we get to train with each other every day.
“We get to train with Heather Stanning and Helen Glover in the women’s who are obviously awesome and every day we get to race them.
“We are just in that atmosphere and the team is smaller now it’s been selected because we trained with a wider team for the first couple of years and then we had spares.
“Now this is just the Olympic team and it’s a lot smaller and in a way it’s almost really nice because it’s a lot more personal.
“Everyone is closer and it’s like really supportive and a really good vibe. Everyone is backing each other and not just their own crew. We all want each other to do well.”
Yorkshire can claim five of the Team GB rowers heading to Rio with men’s coxless fours double Olympic gold medalist Andrew Triggs-Hodge growing up in Hebden and bidding for a third gold but this time in the men’s eight.
Former University of York student Tom Ransley – who took bronze at London 2012 – plus Leeds-based Olympic debutante Paul Bennett compete in the same event.
Richmond’s Zoe Lee is another Olympic debutante in the women’s eight. A tally of nine is needed to equal the London haul but Copeland said: “I think medal targets are probably good in terms of the funding and I guess that’s the way for business people to measure what we get.
“But I would say for us athletes that every single crew I know in this team is aiming for a medal so for us it would be full marks that everyone wants.
“We have an awesome team and I think we are going to do really well.
“In sport, stuff changes so much within just a year so four years is just a whole different ball game.
“It’s almost a bit irrelevant what happened in London and this is just like something where anything is on the table for anyone.
“I think London was obviously like mind-blowing. It was amazing.
“It was really special to all of us and a once in a lifetime thing having the opportunity to be in a home Games.
“That was something that we are never, ever going to be able to repeat but I think this just feels like something almost completely separate and new and fresh and exciting.
“It’s going to have a whole different vibe. I think it’s going to be quite lively and a bit like a party atmosphere.
“I am just so excited to get over there and get thrown into it all again.”
Katherine Grainger will compete at her fifth Olympic Games in Rio after being selected for the women’s double scull alongside Victoria Thornley.
The British Olympic Association (BOA) announced yesterday that the duo would take part in the event, giving Grainger the opportunity to add to her Olympic medal haul.
The 40-year-old Scot is Team GB’s most decorated female Olympian – having added gold in the double scull at London 2012 to three silver medals from Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.
Grainger said: “It is an amazing feeling to be selected to represent your country at the Olympic Games. That feeling doesn’t diminish the second, third, fourth or even fifth time round.”