When women’s rowing was first added to the Olympic programme in 1976, most of the medals went to Eastern bloc countries, at least until the collapse of communist regimes scaled back their state-sponsored sports programmes. Nevertheless, a large number of other rowing nations did win medals at all of the first six Games that included women’s events: Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the USA. Britain, however, didn’t.
This wasn’t for want of trying: after entering two crews in the five events then available at Montreal in 1976, four crews were entered in 1980, five in 1984, three in 1988, and five again in 1992. Even in 1996, by which time boats had to qualify, there were three GB women’s entries. Yet none of these 22 crews or scullers came back with the medal for which they’d all been striving.
All that changed in 2000, when Miriam Batten, Katherine Grainger, Gillian Lindsay and Guin Batten not only rowed a thrilling set of races to finish in the medals, but snatched the silver on the line by the narrowest of margins. 24 years after British women had first competed at an Olympics, this was an incredibly significant achievement.
New rowing stories
As well as stroking the crew that won the first British women’s Olympic rowing medal, Miriam – who only took up rowing at university because she didn’t get into the sailing team – notched up several other significant ‘firsts’ in her rowing career.
Back in 1991, rowing in a pair with Fiona Freckleton, she won the first British women’s openweight crew medal at a World Championships, and then in 1998, she and Gillian Lindsay became the first female British World Champions in an Olympic boat class (in the double).
Having learned to row at Edinburgh University, Dot represented Great Britain at three Olympic Games, from 1992 to 2000.
Her best international result was winning the silver medal at the World Championships in 1998 in a pair with Cath Bishop with whom she formed a strong partnership for the Olympiad thropugh to Sydney in 2000.
Mim won the lightweight pairs at the World Champoinships in 2000 with Malindi Myers.
Her route to GB selection had been quite a long one, but it involved an awful lot of fun, particularly when she and a clubmate spent over a year working and rowing in the United States.
She continues to compete at masters level in rowing, and (weekly) in road cycling.
© Helena Smalman-Smith, 2021.