Karen Bennett admitted she could hardly take in her incredible trip from Pentland Star to Olympic idol after landing a silver medal in the women’s eight in Rio.
Along with Capital cohort Polly Swann, the 27-year-old from Balerno was forced to dig deep as the Brits roared from last to second with a stunning late push to finish just behind the USA.
“This feels like nothing I’ve experienced before,” said Bennett, who was playing for Lothian League basketball outfit Pentland when answering an ad for natural athletes to try out several sports and see how they fared. She scored well for rowing and the rest is history.
She added: “I tried to take it in and enjoy the moment. Everybody told me to do that because four years is a long time to really get going. You have to take in it and this is the pinnacle and we need to enjoy it. And I think we will.”
She joined the likes of Katherine Grainger in the UK’s silver club at the end of the rowing competition that saw the British team top the medal standings. And her fellow Scot, she said, was just one of those who helped convince her to hang on when her introduction to rowing was no smooth sailing.
“When I started, I really looked up to Katherine,” she said. “She is just amazing. Everybody around me in the team inspires me as well. Everybody inspired me in different ways and every person in the boat has had a role for me.”
For former George Watson’s pupil Swann, this was a reward for excellence but also perseverance following the chronic back injury that kept her out of London 2012 and all of last season. But she claimed their crew had no idea they were in trouble as cox Zoe de Toledo spurred them on.
“I didn’t know that we were last at any time. It was a good job from Zoe to keep us in. But you could feel the crews around us working hard. We knew if we kept our rhythm, we could come out on top. The Americans are a really classy crew and hats off to them – they delivered a great race. But I can’t be more happy with how we did.”
Bennett will now take a break to consider whether to carry on in the sport but she reckons her team owe it to Swann to think about a run to Tokyo after her fight just to make a single Games.
“Polly is incredible,” she declared. “She’s a real fighter. Everyone in the boat has their own role but I really look to Polly because she always has something to say which brings real grit, or fight, or determination. She inspires me every day.”