Women’s double sculls qualify for Paris 2024

Mixed emotions for GB at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland

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It was mixed emotions for Great Britain on the final day of racing at the 2024 World Rowing Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland. In the pouring rain and under grey skies, the Women’s double sculls triumphed in their quest to qualify for the Olympic Games. Sadly, George Bourne fell short in the Men’s single sculls.

The Final Olympic Qualification Regatta is a brutal event, known as ‘the Regatta of Death’ in the rowing world. Its all or nothing approach sees athletes from across the world competing on the Rotsee to cross the finish line in first or second place, to win the biggest prize – a chance to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics. Success for the Women’s double sculls means GB now has ten boats on the start line at the Games.

Emotions were high as Becky Wilde and Mathilda Hodgkins Byrne crossed the Women’s double sculls (W2x) finish line in second place to qualify for Paris. Their route to the final saw them finish second in their heat before going on to win the repechage.

Speaking after the race with her two year old son Freddie in her arms, Mathilda said: “When I became pregnant it changed my outlook on things. I don’t think having a baby should be the end of your career. My identity is a mum, but also an athlete and I’m definitely a better mum for rowing and I’m a much better athlete for him. So if anyone out there is considering whether it’s possible or not, it’s hard –  your recovery is terrible at times but you never get stuck in a stress bubble and luckily I’ve got a really great doubles partner in Becky and a coach who makes it possible to go out there with childcare and things. They’re flexible. Things are changing – you can have a child and carry on. Helen (Glover) is showing that too – I hope that the two of us inspire some people going forwards.”

On the race, she added: “We stayed [focused] in our boat the whole way through. In our heat I was too reactive to the crews around us. We said we wanted to do our best race and put that together, and that happened. I was aware that more and more crews were coming behind us. I said to Becky we were just counting down strokes – it was such a relief to get through the finish line. I’m still in shock, I’m mainly relieved. Our biggest project was trying to qualify, so I’m excited to see what we can do now.”

A tearful but overjoyed Becky said: “I’m in shock. I don’t know what happened there. It’s been a lot of hard work and there have been some downs as well as some ups. It’s been tough, but Tom Pattichis, our coach, has been brilliant. I can’t believe we’ve qualified for Paris… It’ll take a while to settle in. I was listening to Mathilda’s words the whole way down, listening to what she was saying and trying to to think about anything or anyone else. In the last 200m I just wanted to get to the line. We’re going to have a few days off then all eyes on Paris and see what we can do there.”

George Bourne battled through the rounds in the Men’s single sculls (M1x), winning his heat and quarter final and finishing a close second in the semi final before booking his spot in the A final, where he missed out on qualification with a fifth place finish. “It’s gutting that it just didn’t go to plan today.” A disappointed George said, “That’s racing and I just need to pick myself up. If I look at the big picture, I’m proud of myself and have believed in myself the whole way through but sometimes that’s just life. You can only do your best and that’s what I’ve tried to do the last few days.”

Commenting on the results, Louise Kingsley, British Rowing Director of Performance said: “The Final Olympic Qualification Regatta is always a big test. All credit to George, he went out and gave it all he could but it just wasn’t to be today. But I’m really pleased for the Women’s double, that’s a great addition to our team for Paris.”

Full Results from World Rowing

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