Edinburgh rowing star leads Great Britain to European silver medal

Rio Olympic silver medallist returns to top level
Great Britain's women eight on their way to silver at the European Championships. Picture: Benedict Tufnell.Great Britain's women eight on their way to silver at the European Championships. Picture: Benedict Tufnell.
Great Britain's women eight on their way to silver at the European Championships. Picture: Benedict Tufnell.

Karen Bennett rubber-stamped her return to international rowing by leading Britain to silver at the European Championships. The Edinburgh star combined with Emily Ford, Lauren Irwin, Esme Booth, Sam Redgrave, Hattie Taylor, Annie Campbell-Orde and cox Henry Fieldman to reach the podium. The final at Lake Bled, Slovenia was Bennett's first race since the Tokyo Olympics.

Bennett said: “It was definitely a blast from the past! It’s just refreshing my memory and getting everything back on track. It feels great to be back and it’s about getting back into the swing of things. It was a good start, although we’re really disappointed not to have got the gold medal. It’s the start of the season so there’s still a lot of racing to come up. Hopefully we can step on.”

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The British crew led the field through the first 500m but their redoubtable Romanian rivals had too much in the remainder of the 2km course. Britain crossed the line more than seven seconds behind the gold medallists and held off Italy to claim silver, finishing in a time of 6 minutes 8.01 seconds.

It was a repeat of the result at the 2022 European Championships with Redgrave, Booth, Ford and Irwin returning from the crew that reached the rostrum in Munich. Rio Olympic silver medallist Bennett is a key addition to the crew, as well as Taylor who joined Bennett in the women's four that came fourth in Tokyo.

Redgrave said: “It’s always great to come away with a medal. We were going for that gold so there’s a bit of disappointment there, but we’ve got a long season ahead of us and a strong group of women who didn’t race who were supporting us.

“We’ve got the energy, determination and talent to keep pushing for that gold medal. We’ve got a lot of strong and knowledgeable people in the crew as well so I’m excited about where we can go.”

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Two of the women's eight had raced in the pair final two hours earlier amid choppy conditions. Doubling up as they did in 2022, Booth and Ford took fifth place in the pair before jumping into the eight to battle for gold.

Booth said: “I thought I was going to be so tired at the end of it but I think the adrenaline got me through it! We’re learning again this year how to take on the project. Last year the pair was the focus and the eight was the thing on the side, but we're taking it as 50:50 at the moment and learning as we go.

“I actually felt okay on the start line of the eight, when you’ve got something else to do, you don’t let yourself listen to how you’re feeling. You’ve got another job to do. I think the adrenaline carried us through the second race. It's a good stake in the ground and hopefully we can step on from here."

•British Rowing is the governing body for the sport and is responsible for the development of rowing in England and the training and selection of rowers to represent Great Britain. The GB Rowing Team is supported by the National Lottery Sports Fund. To find out more, and to follow the team, head to https://www.britishrowing.org/