In 1997, some 23 years after women’s events had been added to the World Rowing Championships in 1974, and 43 years after the Women’s European Rowing Championships began in 1954, the GB coxless four of Sue Walker, Alex Beever, Libby Henshilwood and Lisa Eyre became the first British women’s openweight World Champions.
It’s certainly no coincidence that 1997 was also the year when National Lottery funding arrived and, as a result, the GB women got a new, full-time Chief Coach in Mike Spracklen who would be with them for the whole of the Olympiad, and their own training base (albeit one where the land facilties were somewhat rudimentary) at Longridge near Marlow.
As well as the four’s gold medal, Miriam Batten and Gillian Lindsay won silver in the double sculls, and the eight and the lightweight pair took the bronze medals at the World Championships too. This was the first time GB women’s team had won four medals, and that the openweights had done better than the lightweights. It was truly a new era, and a hugely exciting time in the squad.
The photo at the top of this page shows the World Champion coxless four, and is © Maggie Phillips.