Of all the four gold medals won at Dorney Lake, that of Katherine Copeland and Sophie Hosking was by far the most joyously unexpected. They had only joined forces in a boat three months earlier, boasting a solitary World Cup silver medal to reflect their partnership, and yet they cut through this Olympic final with a wonderfully controlled exhibition of sculling. Feeding off the roar of a tumultuous 30,000-strong crowd, they delivered an improbable final flourish to seal Britain’s most successful regatta in Olympic history.
Sophie could not have avoided rowing if she tried, with a Father who won gold at the World Championships, and a rowing scholarship at school. She tried to buck destiny and play football, at county level and then for Wimbledon Ladies, but missed rowing.
She was a stellar talent at DurhamUniversity, and from there made it into the national under-23 team, then the seniors. She had been partnered with Hester Goodsell for the past three years, and the two won medals at World Cups, and bronze at two World Championships.
But waiting in the wings was Katherine, rapidly becoming the brightest new star in the under-23 team, and ready to do more. Like Sophie, Katherine is a product of Britain’s strong school rowing system, this time at YarmSchool in Teeside, from where she reached the Coupe team, an under-18 group which acts as a development squad for the international juniors.
Sophie was pulled into the under-23 team last year at the age of 20 to make the most of her lightweight physique, and promptly matched Peter Chambers’ achievement by winning the under-23 lightweight single World Championship.
She was then taken to the senior World Championships to be blooded in top-level competition, as the coaches had already realised she would be a strong contender for the Olympic team. In March of this year Sophie fulfilled her potential by beating Katherine in the national team trials.
This and other results in testing suggested that the two should form a new partnership. Their new boat had promise but in the World Cup regattas they kept being caught out, unable to produce a sprint finish. That was until they took their gold.
“Two months ago I would never have dreamed of this,” admitted Sophie, still grinning. “I tried to convince myself that this was just another regatta. I’ve been trying all week not to think about it, because it made me cry every time.”