Karen Bennett enjoying women’s eight return at World Rowing Cup II

A familiar boat but a new crew for Karen Bennett as she readies herself for a return to the eight for the second World Rowing Cup of the season


In just 12 months Karen Bennett has turned from apprentice to master as she prepares for a first international return to the women’s eight since winning Olympic silver.

Bennett was one of the least experienced of the crew in Rio last August having first joined the boat at the start of the 2016 season but now finds herself surrounded by fresh faces for this weekend’s World Rowing Cup II in Poznan.

But the 28-year-old, who began the season racing in the women’s pair, is embracing her new role on the team as she helps guide the younger members of the crew through a first senior season’s racing.

“It’s a different role for me as last year I was able to just listen but being one of the more experienced athletes means there’s a real role reversal,” said Bennett.

“I’m taken slightly out of my comfort zone with it but it’s something I am enjoying and trying my best to help the girls and make the boat go as fast as it can.

“Last year I was one of the new ones and was surrounded by so much experience – people like Fran Houghton who was at her fifth Olympics – so I just tried to be like a sponge, trying to learn everything and listen to everyone. I gained so much from that.

“This year feels very different but what I can do for this group is offer support and help steer if required.”

Bennett is racing in the eight alongside Annie Withers, Sara Parfett, Caragh McMurtry, Rebecca Chin, Josephine Wratten, Rebecca Shorten, Katherine Douglas and cox Matilda Horn having begun the season in the pair with Holly Norton.

And that partnership was certainly fruitful with a gold in the opening World Rowing Cup in Belgrade before bronze at the European Championships last month.

But with the Norton injured and Bennett drafted in as a late replacement this weekend the Edinburgh-born rower is enjoying a return to the eight for the first time since stepping onto Olympic podium last summer.

“Being back feels really good,” added Bennett. Having been in the pair at the start of this season, everything gets done a lot quicker in the bigger boat – the training session is done before you even know it.

“I enjoy rowing in all sweep boats, whether that’s the eight or the pair, they’re different in their own ways. The eight is fast and ferocious so when you really get it up and moving it feels really good, and then the pair is more of partnership between you and the other person and it feels really nice when you’re moving well.

“After Rio I had a great three months off and I certainly paid for it when I did come back. As athletes though we really enjoy structure and competing so I’m really enjoying being back in training and racing again. Racing out here in Poznan is great – this is what we do it for and it feels great to be back.”

The women’s eight is one of 17 crews set to race in Poland this weekend as GB look to retain their lead in the World Rowing Cup, having won 11 medals in Belgrade in round one.