Charlotte Taylor’s six-year journey from novice club rower to Rio-bound Olympian may have surprised many – but not her dad.
In just her third season on the British team, the 30-year-old is already a European Champion and World Championship silver medallist and travels to Brazil alongside Kat Copeland — who will be seeking to retain the lightweight double sculls title she won at London 2012.
For many, taking ownership of such a high-profile seat — Sophie Hosking retired from the sport after winning gold with Copeland — would be daunting. For Taylor, it’s just another ‘fun’ challenge to embrace.
“I probably get my mental toughness from my dad, I like physically putting myself through the ringer,” she said.
“I’ve only been rowing for six years and the irony is I told dad at the time that I didn’t want a sport that would take over my life, just one to settle me into London life.
“I am a bit of a daddy’s girl and I used to like to prove to dad that I could do anything.
“He always tells people stories of when we used to go walking in Ilfracombe in Devon on our camping holidays.
“I would insist on taking the big rucksack for the day, even if I couldn’t really carry it. There was always a bit of competitiveness in me from an early age.
“Soon after I started rowing this became an ambition, I thought, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it properly.
“I was never going to be big enough to be a heavyweight, so it was the lightweight team and I knew there was only two seats.
“It was always about being as good as I could be and I always believed that the possibility was there, but realising you actually are going to go to an Olympics, that’s incredible.”
— Charlotte Booth (@charlietaylor1x) June 9, 2016
However, Taylor’s rise from her first tentative strokes on the Thames Tideway in Putney to the world’s greatest stage has not been all calm waters.
After qualifying the boat to Rio with Copeland at last year’s World Championships in Aiguebelette, she had a difficult winter with illnesses and the double failed to defend their European title in Brandenburg at the start of the season.
“It’s been a rollercoaster few months,” adds Taylor.
“Being sick over the winter meant I needed to completely change my training and that was really unsettling.
“I just needed to grit my teeth and get on with it because I didn’t know whether we’d get back to the level we were rowing.
“The last three to four weeks have been really solid and we’ve got one more World Cup regatta but I don’t think we’ll be the finished article by then either.
“There is a gold medal mentality in this boat because that’s what Kat and our coach achieved in London.
“Four years ago she was the fresh face but she has never put any pressure on me to recreate something she had in the past.
“We don’t talk about it too much. I have some questions that I ask her about how things felt or just the sort of general experience, because at London 2012, I was a spectator and she was my hero.”
Taylor’s sporting ambitions used to be on dry land as a promising middle distance runner for her hometown club in Bedford, where Paula Radcliffe remains the most famous member.
She recalls watching Dame Kelly Holmes win double gold in Athens, but it was a non-sporting moment from London 2012 that fired her Olympic ambition.
“My fiancé was a GamesMaker at London and we were both totally wrapped up in it and he gave me his ticket to go to the dress rehearsal of the opening ceremony. There was only one ticket, so I went on my own,” she adds.
“I just remember standing there as this incredible thing happened and just crying and thinking, I’ve just got to go. I knew then that I needed to be an athlete at one of these things and now I am.”
And while Taylor’s rise has been meteoric, one man never doubted her.
Her dad bought his Olympic tickets last year, such was the confidence he’d be watching his daughter achieve her ambition.
Self-belief, it seems, runs in the family too.