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Our tenant becomes a World Champion

World Champions Ellie Piggott (left) and Brianna Stubbs (right)

Brianna Stubbs tells us how she rowed her way through intensive training, and weather, to cross the ultimate finish line…

The Senior GB Team trials: following in the footsteps of the Olympians

Following a positive start to the season, things kept getting better. After finishing 4th at the second round of Senior GB Team trials I was invited on a training camp in Portugal as part of the squad departing in the New Year. It was a fantastic experience to train with some of my Olympic heroes from the 2012 games. I learnt a lot and got some good training under my belt in a really stunning location.

Alongside the rowing, I submitted an application to study a DPhil at Oxford in the New Year which was accepted, so I had renewed purpose with my day to day work in the research lab, knowing it would be setting me up for the next three years as a research student.

The final round of GB Trials went well and I began to train in a double with the other top U23 lightweight, Ellie Piggott, who I have rowed with in my two Boat Races, so we had a great chemistry on the water. We were lucky enough to be allowed to train as part of the senior national squad which meant access to the best facilities and coaching in the country. In some of our training pieces we were giving our senior counterparts a run for their money and so the selectors decided we were of the standard to compete as the British B crew at the Senior World Cup Series Regatta, which would be held on the Olympic course at Dorney lake. This was hugely exciting news for Ellie and I as this was the first time we had represented the senior GB team.


At the Fours Head of the River, London


The Senior World Cup Series Regatta: sporting the team colour

Our preparation went well and it was so exciting to don the tracksuit in the team colour and step out onto the course where just under a year ago the Olympic champions were decided! We came 2nd to the GB A crew in our heat and went into the final hoping that if we had our best race we might be able to challenge for a spot on the podium. Unfortunately, despite executing a good race we lost a little too much ground in the first half to make up with our fantastic sprint but we were pleased to finish fourth in the fastest time we had ever posted and only 2 seconds behind the GB senior double who finished 2nd. It was tight racing and a very valuable experience.


The World Championships: steely determination

From then the focus shifted to the u23 world championships which were to be held in Austria and would be the pinnacle of our season. Training began to decrease in volume but increase in intensity as we got near to the competition. In the pre competition camp we were ranked very highly on our timed race work compared to the other GB boats and so we felt confident going out to Austria. When we arrived, it was in the mid 30s- blisteringly hot! We trained very early and very late trying to avoid the worst of it, but it still meant we had to be very careful to stay properly hydrated.

It took us a few days of paddling at the course to work the travelling stiffness out of our legs, but all too soon it was business time. In our heat, we were drawn against several crews who we thought would be our main opposition, including Germany and New Zealand. On the start line I was pretty nervous as it was completely unknown how our speed would match up against this tough opposition. We didn’t have a great start and were sitting in second going through the halfway, but we dealt with the pressure well and moved through in the second half of the race to win quite comfortably. The semi final was a bit less of an unknown and so we went out with steely determination and controlled the race from the go. In the end we were able to wind our effort right down before the line; we had made it into the final without having to show anyone our sprint finish which we thought we could use to surprise people in the final.


Race line


The Final: leading the world down the track

On the morning of the final it was easiest to try and keep thinking that it was business as usual. In high pressure situations I have previously found that you wish you could be somewhere else, but we had decided that we were going to keep thinking that this moment was what we had done the hard work, training, and made all the sacrifices for all year and that there was absolutely nowhere that we would rather be than on that start line. I knew I was in the best possible shape and that I was with the best partner in the world and that if we rowed like we had previously, that someone would have to do something special to beat us.

We made a great start and had a narrow lead at the first timing point. It’s funny, listening to the race commentary back, and looking at the times, it all looks rather close, but I remember feeling totally in control and feeling like we had an answer to anything that the other crews could throw at us. It was an amazing feeling to be leading the world down the track, as we passed through the halfway point in the lead and the other crews started to drop back. As we started building for the line I was still totally in the moment and hadn’t let myself think about what winning might feel like. Crossing the line there was a huge rush of pain followed by disbelief and shock at what we had managed to do. I couldn’t believe that we had become World Champions! Having our names announced, medals presented and the union jack raised along to the national anthem was so surreal, I couldn’t stop smiling. To be honest I didn’t stop smiling for the whole of the following week!

I have had a couple of weeks away from rowing to give my body a good chance to rest and recharge and also to celebrate and catch up with my friends and family who have to play second fiddle to my training for most of the year! Next year I will no longer be eligible for the u23 age group and so I will have to keep raising my game to compete with the senior athletes, but the memories of this summer will motivate and encourage me to keep working hard to pursue excellence and to keep chasing my dreams, even when the days get shorter and colder!