Vicky Thornley only has eyes for the podium in hotly contested single scull competition

Vicky Thornley knows she faces a tough battle in the women’s single scull at the 2017 World Rowing Championships, but is confident of success in Sarasota


Vicky Thornley in her heat of the women's single sculls at the European Championships in Racice (credit: Naomi Baker)

Vicky Thornley is no stranger to racing the single scull at the World Rowing Championships, but now she’s going in as a genuine medal contender with high expectations for herself.

The Wrexham rower got a taste for the podium at a major regatta when she won silver with Dame Katherine Grainger in the double scull at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Since then, she’s moved back to the single, where she spent much of the 2013 and 2014 seasons, and the medals have kept coming.

Silver at the first World Cup of the 2020 Olympiad was followed by a memorable gold in Racice at the European Championships and another second-place finish at World Cup II in Poznan.

At the World Championships in Sarasota-Bradenton, she is one of half-a-dozen elite scullers with their eyes on a medal, and the 29-year-old knows she’s in for a great battle to reach the podium in Florida.

“I have a very different mindset going into this World Championships,” she said, in reference to her previous World Championships in the single, which resulted in seventh and eighth-place finishes.

“What we achieved at the Olympics in Rio has totally changed my aspirations. Of course I always wanted to be on the podium, but now I’ve been there at the highest level, that standard is the minimum.

“I know the challenges I’m facing with the single scull – it’s a different boat class, and that’s why I wanted to do it, but I’m in a different place in my career as an athlete than I was back in 2013 and 2014. Back then it was an incredible achievement to make the final, but now I think that’s where I should be and I need to make sure I’m on my A game to get there.”

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The women’s single scull will certainly be one of the more fascinating boat classes to watch in Sarasota. Jeannine Gmelin (Switzerland) garnered a lot of attention in her two outings this season, dominating at the World Cups in Belgrade and Lucerne, but didn’t race in Poznan or Racice.

Magdalena Lobnig (Austria) took the win ahead of Thornley in Poznan, while Ekaterina Karsten (Belarus) proved that age is no barrier to success, pushing the Brit to the line at the Europeans. Then there’s Annekatrin Thiele, who took the win ahead of Thornley at Henley Royal Regatta, and the likes of Carling Zeeman (Canada) and Duan Jingli (China), who kept their powder dry in 2017 but medalled in their only appearances on the World Cup circuit.

But the competition doesn’t faze Thornley, who instead has learned to love the racing aspect of the sport more this season.

“I’ve learned a lot more about racing [this year] and I’ve enjoyed racing more as well,” she said. “In between the World Cups, I would be training [at Caversham] and would be thinking that I couldn’t wait to get into battle with all the other single scullers and going stroke to stroke with them. That’s been the standout thing for me.”

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The World Rowing Championships run from Sunday, 24 September to Sunday, 1 October in Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida. Keep up to date with all the action on the British Rowing website, as well as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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