Tokyo Olympics: the rowers to watch from south west London

The Tokyo Olympics start this Friday after being delayed a year by COVID-19, and SWLondoner is previewing all the athletes to watch from on our patch – continuing with the rowers.

Rowing has always historically been a strong sport for Team GB, who have picked up 63 medals since the start of the 20th Century, and have medalled in every Olympics since 1984.

Team GB secured five rowing medals, including three golds at the Rio Olympics in 2016 and sends a team of 45 rowers to Tokyo.

Below, SWL has profiled all of the rowers who were either born in, or train in, south west London.

Emily Craig – Women’s lightweight doubles sculls

Emily Craig and her lightweight doubles sculls’ partner Imogen Grant come into the Olympics fresh off a European silver medal, as the pair narrowly lost to Italian duo Valentina Rodini and Federica Cesarini in Varese back in April.

It will be the first Olympics for the 28-year-old from Pembury, who trains at the University of London Boat Club in Chiswick.

In fact, it was just days after the end of the Rio Olympics when Craig made her mark on the international stage, securing a gold medal in the lightweight quadruple sculls at the World Championships in Rotterdam.

Craig, who had picked up a silver medal in the same event on her senior international debut the previous year, has also picked up World and European bronze medals in the doubles.

That World bronze medal in 2019 with current partner Grant, coupled with the more recent European silver, will fill Craig with hope she can challenge for a medal at Tokyo.

John Collins – Men’s doubles sculls

A finalist in the doubles sculls in Rio in 2016, Twickenham’s John Collins is hoping that a change in partner since then will equal a change in fortunes.

The 32-year-old has reasons to be optimistic, as he and Graeme Thomas secured a bronze medal in the European Championships in Varese in April.

Moreover, the pair were part of the quadruple sculls team that won a silver for Great Britain at the World Championships in Sarasota in 2017.

Collins, who started rowing in Putney through the Duke of Edinburgh scheme at the age of 15, will also be motivated by the fact that his partner Karen Bennett is an Olympic silver medallist from Rio, and will be joining him in Tokyo.

Rebecca Shorten – Women’s coxless four

Another rower who secured a bronze medal in Varese in the event she’s participating in in Tokyo is Rebecca Shorten, who will race in the coxless four.

The 27-year-old from Belfast has had a turbulent ride to Tokyo, as she didn’t commit to the sport full-time until 2017.

Before that, the Roehampton University graduate, who had given up on rowing as a youth only to recapture the magic, was juggling her training with a 28-hour-a-week job in a shop and being a nanny an additional eight hours a week.

Shorten, who still trains at Imperial College Boat Club in Putney, has picked up European silvers in the eights on two occasions: Glasgow 2018 and Lucerne 2019.

Her coxless four team includes Olympic silver medallist Bennett, Rowan McKellar and Harriet Taylor.

Oliver Cook – Men’s coxless four

Oliver Cook will be chomping at the bit to compete at Tokyo, as he was a non-travelling spare for Rio in 2016.

He’s more than earned his selection at Tokyo since, winning European gold in 2019 and then again in Varese in April in the coxless four, as well as securing a World Championship bronze in Ottensheim in 2019.

Cook also has a World Championship gold in the coxed pair from 2016 and an eight’s European bronze from Belgrade in 2014 on his impressive resume.

The 31-year-old from Windsor, who now trains at University of London Boat Club, started his career at local club Eton Excelsior, where he became the club’s first junior rower aged 12.

He also has nine years senior experience, and a 2017 Boat Race victory for Oxford alongside his brother Jamie to brag about, now he just needs an Olympic medal.

Charlotte Hodgkins-Byrne – Women’s quadruple sculls

If Charlotte Hodgkins-Byrne wins an Olympic medal in Tokyo, she won’t be able to hold it over her older sister’s head.

That’s because Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne will be in the boat beside her, along with Lucy Glover and Hannah Scott.

The four, who were another crew to medal in Varese, as they brought home a European silver, are coming into Tokyo in good shape.

University of London Boat Club member Hodgkins-Byrne, 24, has two U23 World Championship golds to her name, as well as an U23 World silver and a World Junior bronze.

And whilst Tokyo will be far from the Royal Holloway graduate’s first foray in senior boating, as she’s been racing for Great Britain for three years, she’s hoping it will be her most successful.

Sara Parfett – Women’s eight

Whilst many Olympians would have been inspired by London 2012, for Sara Parfett it was Sydney 2000 that sparked the fire.

Originally planning to be a swimmer, Parfett switched to rowing after joining the University of Bath to study Biology in 2012, and never looked back.

Now studying a Masters at King’s College and training in south west London at the University of London Boat Club, Parfett is going to achieve her 20-year ambition at Tokyo.

The 29-year-old will be joining a team that is defending its Rio silver medal in the eight, admittedly without any members of that crew.

In 2017 Parfett was part of the eight who won World Cup silver and bronze before her Olympic selection for the postponed Games in 2021.

Rebecca Muzerie – Women’s eight

Another member of the eight is Rebecca “Beccy” Muzerie, who is also set to make her Olympic debut at Tokyo.

The 31-year-old took up rowing when studying Psychology at Cardiff University, and has since represented Great Britain at the Rowing World Cup and in World and European Championships.

Muzerie, who is now training at Moseley Boat Club in Kingston, is a trained social worker who can speak basic sign language.

However, possibly the most interesting thing about Muzerie is her Instagram, a barbeque and baking account that avid baker Beccy runs with her South African husband.

She’ll be hoping to cook up a storm in Tokyo.

Matilda Horn – Women’s eight (cox)

The cox of the women’s eight, Matilda Horn will play a vital role if her crew are able to build on their recent European successes.

Horn, whose coxing break came at the 2017 World Cup, where the eight secured bronze and silver medals, has also picked up two European silver medals coxing the women’s eight in 2018 in Glasgow and in 2019 in Lucerne.

A keen rower herself during her time at Twickenham’s St Mary’s University, Horn shifted to coxing while rowing at the University of London Boat Club, as she picked up a back injury.

Her height was also a factor in the decision to shift to her new role, which she describes as halfway between a coach and an athlete.

But even though she won’t be rowing in Tokyo, the 28-year-old will be a key member of the GB Team.

Mohamed Sbihi – Men’s eight

There will be few Olympic rowers at Tokyo this year as decorated as Kingston’s Moe Sbihi.

The 33-year-old has won the lot over the last 11 years, since he graduated from St Mary’s University in Twickenham, and was also awarded an MBE in 2017.

As well as a bronze medal from London 2012 in the eight and a stunning gold in Rio 2016 as part of the men’s coxless four, Sbihi has three World Championship gold medals, three European gold medals, and a slew of silvers and bronzes across the two disciplines.

It’s the most recent of those golds that will give the Molesey Boat Club rower, now back in the eight, confidence going into Tokyo, as his crew won the European Championships in Varese in April.

The birth of his son Idris in December is the latest motivation for the practising Muslim, who having dedicated previous medals to his parents and his wife Rachel, will be hoping for one more medal to dedicate in Tokyo.

Henry Fieldman – Men’s eight (cox)

One person that Sbihi and the rest of the men’s eight can be confident in is their cox, Henry Fieldman.

Fieldman, from Barnes, is one of the most experienced coxswains in rowing, having represented Great Britain at all junior levels before making his senior debut in 2012.

Since then, he has won gold in the coxed pair at both the 2015 and 2016 World Championships, as well as a silver in Amsterdam in 2014.

Since shifting to the eight, he’s secured World Championship bronzes in 2018 and 2019, as well as European silver in 2019.

However, it’ll be the recent European gold in Varese with the eight’s crew heading to Tokyo that will instil the most trust heading into the Olympics.

Saskia Budgett – Reserve

It says a lot about the strength in depth that Team GB has at its disposal that a European bronze medal in Varese is only enough to secure Saskia Budgett a spot on the reserve list for Tokyo.

The 24-year-old from Acton plies her trade at Tideway Scullers School in Chiswick, and made her senior GB debut in 2019.

However, Budgett has been representing GB at junior levels since 2012 and secured two U23 World Championship medals in the quadruple sculls, a gold in 2017 and a bronze the following year.

Whether she gets the chance to represent Team GB at Tokyo remains to be seen, but Budgett is a rower with a bright future.

You can read the rest of SWL’s Tokyo Olympics coverage, including the rest of our preview profiles here.

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