30 years ago
1989 was a post-Olympic year which brought with it a ‘slump’ which was particularly common in pre-funding days; and the openweight women’s team had what can best be summarised as a grim time at the World Championships in Bled. The stars of the championships, were the lightweight four of Katie Brownlow, Jo Toch, Rachel Hirst and Sue Key who won the silver medal.
Boats and blades were plastic and lycra had been invented but blades were still macons.
40 years ago
1979 was the equivalent of 2019 in that it it was a pre-Olympic year, although there was no such thing as Olympic qualification then (up to and including 1992, when entries GREATLY exceeded expectations and, indeed, accommodation in the Olympic Village, you could just enter). There were no lightweights then either, but the (openweight) team was on the up, with the new Chief Coach Dan Topolski determined that there would be a GB women’s eight at the Moscow Olympics. However, there was a lot to do before then; none of the four GB crews made their finals at the World Championships also in Bled.
On the plus side, this was the second year that women’s events had been included in what was then called the FISA Championships for Juniors; all seven girls in the GB team that year went on to row for Britain as seniors.
Some boats were plastic, some were wood; blades were all wooden macons, and everyone raced in cotton singlets.
50 years ago
Believe it or not, in 1969 (when I was a year old, not that that’s relevant, but just to put it in perspective that it was within my lifetime), the entirety of the GB women’s rowing team at the Women’s European Rowing Championships in Klagenfurt was a single sculler, Margaret Gladden, a doctor who trained on her own.
The report linked to below includes some amazing footage, recently found by her daughter, of Margaret training in Chester with snow on the banks, but still wearing shorts. Track suits hadn’t really been invented.
60 years ago
If you thought a one-person team was a low point (numerically I mean), 10 years earlier, the Women’s ARA admitted that there weren’t even any crews in Britain of a suitable standard to represent the country at the 1959 Women’s European Rowing Championships in Macon.
As women’s international rowing only started in 1951, that’s as far back in time as we can go, and in case you were wondering, I haven’t (yet) researched and written up the full stories of the GB women’s team at the 2009 or 1999 World Rowing Championships.
© Helena Smalman-Smith, 2019.