After Three Years and Two Children, Rowing Champ Returns for Rio

After having two children during a three-year break from rowing, reigning Olympic champion Anna Watkins is back on the water.

Watkins hasn’t raced competitively since she won gold with Katherine Grainger in the double scull at the London Olympics in August 2012. She had her first child in September 2013 and a second in February 2015, completing the London marathon in between in April 2014. Watkins has been training for a few months as she tries to make the British squad for the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, GB Rowing said in an e-mailed statement.

“Some people will think this is rather far-fetched and ridiculous to come back after three years out and two children and, within a year, get into the Olympic team,” Watkins said.

Watkins, a Cambridge graduate who is pursuing a Ph.D. in mathematics, will be 33 when the Rio games start a year from now.

“No one has done this before so it will be experimental and ground-breaking,” added Watkins, who won bronze in the double scull at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “I don’t know where to set my expectations yet but I’m very excited about finding out what’s possible.”

Grainger returned to rowing in September following a two-year break after London 2012. She took bronze in the double sculls with Vicky Thornley at the European championships in May.

“We are delighted that someone of Anna’s talent and status is returning to the sport,” GB Rowing team performance director David Tanner said. “That can only be a good thing for the sport. We operate an open policy and Anna will be aware of all the steps that will need to be taken in the coming months.”

That includes a series of trials and testing through this fall and early winter, followed by the team trials in March.