With Golds in the 2010 and 2011 World Championships, and a further Gold at the 2012 London Olympics (all in Double Sculls with Katherine Grainger), Anna Watkins is one of the most reliably exciting rowers around. She began rowing while studying Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, and is presently studying for a PhD in Mathematics at the University of Reading, while living in Wokingham with her husband and two sons. She is a patron of the Women’s Sport Trust, and an inspirational public speaker and broadcaster, both of which roles put her experience, drive and enthusiasm to their best use for others to follow in her wake.
1. What was your biggest career break?
It was becoming a part of British Rowing’s Talent ID programme, I don’t think I’d be doing this without that opportunity.
2. What one piece of advice would you give to the 20-year-old you?
Trust your instincts about rowing technique and learn to listen to your body as it might save you a few injuries!
3. What qualities do you most value in people with whom you work?
The women’s rowing team is full of amazing people, motivated, talented and full of life. I most admire their can-do approach to everything.
4. Who do you admire and why?
I admire the late Richard Feynmann, he had a fantastic approach to life being an adventure.
5. What does the future of competitive rowing look like, to you?
I think in time rowing will be a more compact sport, with racing over shorter distances and with athletes generally racing in several events, because there are pressures to make it ever better for spectators and to keep athlete numbers within modest limits at the Olympics.
6. If you hadn’t lived a life in rowing and competing, what would you have done instead?
I think I would have gone into the RAF and tried to be a pilot.
7. What is your biggest extravagance?
I’m not an extravagent person really but probably children’s clothes and Waitrose.
8. Who would you invite to your dream dinner party and why? (you can invite three people – they must be alive)
Germaine Greer – most of what I have in life would not have been possible without the feminist movement and we have Newnham in common.
The Queen – think of all she’s seen and the stories she could tell if it were a private party.
The Duke of Edinburgh – he can get the Queen a bit tipsy so she can tell the stories she shouldn’t.
9. What do you do to relax away from work?
Play with my two boys. Build a den in the sofa and chase them round the living room.
10. If you could change one thing about Britain today, what would it be?
I would take social media back ten years – so that Facebook was just about real life friends and there was no Twitter. There’s so much junk on there. Maybe I’m getting old but I like newspapers.
11. What would your last meal be? (you can choose a starter, a main course and a pudding)
Oooh, I’d have my mum’s vegetable soup with homemade bread and butter, then rare roast rib of beef with yorkshire puddings, then profiteroles.