Anna Corderoy recounts her journey from OUWLRC to the World Championships

Anna Corderoy coxed the Great Britain PR3 Mix4+ to a Gold Medal and World Best time at the World Rowing Championships in September 2017 in Sarasota. She writes: 

Christmas 2014: an unexpected message in my inbox. OUWLRC needed an extra cox for training camp, did I want to go for it? I (eventually) decided that I fancied it, but on the strict, self-imposed condition that it wouldn’t lead to any long-term commitment. A whirlwind of a year later, my crew snuck their bowball ahead of Cambridge’s at the Henley Boat Race 2016 to pull off an incredibly last minute win by a canvas. Then I graduated, feeling certain that my experience of the real world would be much more land-based and much less on the water.

However, OUWLRC left such an impression on me that I wasn’t ready to let it go. I messaged anyone I thought might be able to help and told them the same thing: I wanted to cox for GB. A massive long shot, but I’d do whatever it took to give it a decent try. I didn’t know that would entail upping sticks to London, blowing every penny left in the bank on a flat with strangers, setting alarms for 3:50am to trek from Putney to Molesey for outings before dashing from zone 6 to 1 for 9am lectures at law school. Trying to get on the radar, racing with any crew that asked me, even putting myself in front of busy GB coaches and eagerly introducing myself. One morning my coach at Molesey told me the GB para squad were looking for coxes, and that they’d put my name forward if I wanted to trial. I told him to count me in.

It hit home that the 2017 World Rowing Championships were happening when, just after we touched down in Florida, the pilot wished luck to the GB Rowing Team over the tannoy to a cabin full of passengers who burst into applause. In Tampa, there were posters and billboards for the event everywhere. Everyone greeting us in the airport was full of energy, excited that GB had arrived – one of the first nations to come through. Watching other teams from all over the world gradually join us one by one at the Nathan Benderson Park was surreal; as the boat racks filled up I made the transition from deciphering Oxford college blade colours to working out which countries were training in the lanes around us on the lake. When, during the colourful opening ceremony, the 69 competing nation flags were brought onto the stage, it reinforced what a privilege it was to be there and what an amazing week lay ahead.

Base camp was the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Sarasota – second to none with our 9th floor balcony views of the marina and Gulf of Mexico. Most of our time away from the lake was spent recovering here, with our fantastic team coaches/doctor/physiologists/physiotherapists/nutritionist no more than a few doors away if we ever needed support. With our preliminary scheduled for five whole days into the regatta, it was exciting chatting with other GB athletes over meals and hearing their accounts of how racing was going.

Our final came around on the morning of Saturday 30th. Despite a good preliminary two days previously we were ready to step up another gear and adamant not to rest on our laurels. We’d been told the day would be a “19-camera-extravaganza”, and that tickets had completely sold out; nonetheless everything that morning seemed to happen perfectly within our own crew. I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I’d be, as we’d been so well prepared in the lead up to the race that we knew exactly what the plan was and how we were going to deliver it. Auto-pilot kicked in from the minute we pushed off the raft. We were given a bit more of a fight off the start compared with the preliminary race; it was important to stay internal and execute our start sequence exactly as we’d planned it. 500-600m in, as we pulled away from the USA, the challenge was to see just how clean, efficient and technical we could make the rest of the race. We knew what splits to look for and which technical points we’d need to stay on top of to hit them. By the time the red buoys came it felt as though we’d set a sustainable platform to build for the line. Seeing the bubble-line getting closer and closer whilst hearing the sound from the stands was amazing.

Everything after that was a bit of a blur: landing, getting ushered into the media area, hugged by Dame Katherine Grainger and Sir Steve Redgrave, trying (and tremendously failing) to keep my cool on camera…learning that we’d achieved our aim, 6:55.7, a sub-7 minute world record. Then standing on the podium and hearing the national anthem – the absolute nail in the coffin RE any semblance of media dignity as I bawled my eyes out. After that it was an immense privilege to be able to spend the rest of the weekend in the stands with the team, watching everybody else race.

Back to OUWLRC. I took lessons learnt with the lightweights onto the start line last Saturday, not least every month beforehand in the build up. Back in 2015, when, inexperienced as I was, OUWLRC decided to give me a chance, this club taught me a few of the most important things: shoot for things beyond your reach. Take even the least expected opportunities. Work hard, take what luck you can get and do whatever you can to make the rest for yourself. I am so grateful for all of the support that OUWLRC has given me since I trundled confusedly into Heathrow on Day 1 – thanks especially to Chris, Jill, Clive, Andrew and all of my squad members over the last few years. You’ve made the journey incredible!

Thanks also to Phil Bourguinon and everyone at Molesey Boat Club, and last but absolutely by no means least our fantastic coaches Nick Baker & Tom Dyson, everyone working behind the scenes on the GB Rowing Team for all of their hard work getting us to the start line, as well as the National Lottery for the ongoing support.

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