|Years||1984 Lightweight Championships (Lt 1x 9th)|
1985 World Championships (Lt 1x 11th)
1986 World Championships (Lt 2x 2nd)
1987 World Championships (Lt 2x 4th)
1988 World Championships (Lt 1x 9th)
|Clubs||St Hugh’s BC, Furnivall SC, Tideway Scullers School, Marlow RC|
|Height||5’6″ or 168cm|
Carrie is on the right in the photo at the top of this page which shows her and Gill Bond after winning the silver medal at the 1986 World Championships. (Photo: Carrie Collerton’s personal collection.)
Getting into rowing
Carol-Ann, known as Carrie, took up rowing at Oxford University in her second year when a friend decided she wanted to give it a go and asked Carrie to come with her. “She gave up because she was also really into sailing, but I stuck with it and rowed for the rest of that year and my third year,” Carrie remembers. She rowed in the St Hugh’s first eight in her final year, which went Head of the River in the summer. “I’d actually switched courses from law to maths after two terms so I was trying to cram the three year maths course into two years and a term, and by my third year I was still catching up, so I had to hide if I ever saw my tutor in college when I was wearing my tracksuit because I knew she wouldn’t have approved of me rowing,” she laughs. “But she said something at the leavers’ dinner which made me realise that she probably knew all along.”
After University she moved to London where she worked in banking, and tried rowing a couple of times at Kingston, which had been recommended as the club to go to by her coach at St Hugh’s, Len Andrews, who was one of the Oxford boatmen. “But I wasn’t fit enough to do the land training and it was such a trek from Clapham where I lived and I gave up,” she says.
That would have been that, had it not been for a professional encounter. Which involved alcohol. “I was out entertaining some clients with a colleague and it turned out that one of the clients and my colleague rowed, so they got talking about rowing, and you know how it is that if you were ever a rower, you can’t resist joining in the conversation. So James, the customer said to me, ‘Oh, come down to the club!,’ and by then I’d had a few so I said, ‘Yeah, yeah, great!’ And then the next day and you wake up and think, ‘Oh no, I said I’d go rowing. But he was a customer so I couldn’t not go. By then I was so unfit. I think I’d been swimming three times in the previous year. And the first thing we did was a run to the church and back, which was about a mile each way and I had stop and take a breather at the church!”
Carrie rowed in a Furnivall SC coxed four in the summer of 1982, winning Senior C at Borne Regatta, after which the crew disbanded. As she was now hooked, she took up sculling. For her first outing, “The club captain had me on a piece of rope going up and down, and he’d get me to take two strokes, then ten strokes, and by then I was at the far end of the rope. He shouted at me, ‘That was really good,’ but I couldn’t hear him so I lifted my hands to my mouth to shout, ‘What?,’ and I didn’t fall in! Years later he told me that that was when he knew I was going to be a sculler.”
Not long after she’d started sculling, the famous sculling coach Bill Barry (who had been a silver medallist at the 1964 Olympics) happened to catch her up one day. “He came alongside me under Hammersmith Bridge and said, ‘I can make you a world champion, come down at 8am tomorrow,'” which I did. Bill was one of the founders of the Tideway Scullers School club, which at that time boated out of Furnivall, making it convenient for Carrie to join in with his group. “I never did become a world champion but he did teach me to scull and the importance of the feel of the boat. We’d usually we’d go upstream to Richmond, and he’d set me off first because I was slowest and the fastest would be at the back and would have to try and overtake everyone. He’d start coaching me and then he’d pick up the faster ones as they overtook me. So I got a bit of coaching but what it meant, being slowest was I was last to get to the top and then I’d be sent off first again so I never got a rest at all but it was quite an incentive to learn to scull more quickly because you got a bit of a rest if you managed to stay ahead of someone on the way up! And because I wasn’t fit enough to work hard, I had to learn the skills to go faster.”
Carrie’s first sculling race was the Scullers’ Head in 1983 where she finished fourth overall, which she followed with a string of wins at regattas that summer. As Furnivall wasn’t doing a lot at the time, and Carrie didn’t drive so couldn’t transport her scull anywhere, she made an arrangement with Lensbury RC that they would take her boat to regattas on their trailer if she rowed in their women’s coxed four. Unfortunately, the Lensbury trailer tipped over just after she’d put her new Colley scull on it, and the boat was a write off. By then Bill Colley was no longer building boats so she replaced it with an Andrew Sims boat which she continued to row in until 2011 when it was sadly destroyed in the fire at Marlow RC.
Having got onto the Amateur Rowing Association’s radar with her performances, Carrie went to a GB trial in December 1983 where she was the fastest of the six scullers, the other competitors being in pairs or fours. “When I went in to the ARA to get the results, Phil Tinsley asked me how much I weighed, and I said, ‘Nine stone,’ to which he replied, ‘Oh, Fantastic, a lightweight!,’ and that was a silly thing for me to have said because I wanted to go to the Olympics in 1984.” Carrie remembers doing a trial at Thorpe Park for a heavyweight quad which National Coach Rosie Mayglothling and another sculling coach, Mark Hayter, tried to pull together quite late on for the Olympics, but despite doing very well, wasn’t picked for the boat, which Mark admits was selected on the basis of who might be most able to gel as a crew at short notice rather than the four fastest scullers. The quad ultimately wasn’t selected to go to the Los Angeles games anyway.
Carrie then won lightweight singles at the National Championships in 1984 which got her selected to represent Great Britain as the single sculler in the test events for women that formed part of the FISA Championships for Lightweights in Montreal that summer.
She went on to scull for GB four more times, twice in the single and twice in the double, winning a silver medal at the 1986 World Championships in a rare dead heat after a thrilling final surge which saw her and her doubles partner Gill Bond catching a Dutch crew on the line.
Full details of all these years can be found here:
1984 | 1985 | 1986 | 1987 | 1988
When she won her silver medal in 1986, Carrie decided that she would retire from international rowing after 1988, a year she chose because she’d be 30 by then, but also because at that point still hoped that she might be selected for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. She remembers the Director of International Rowing Penny Chuter telling her that if they won in the double at the World Championships in 1988, she would send them to Seoul. “But by then I wasn’t even in the double in 1988 and Gill and Caroline who were came third,” she says [adding, “And they let the heavyweight spares race as the double anyway.”
Despite having no intention of rowing internationally and no longer training, Carrie went to the open GB trials in January 1989. She’s not quite sure why, but thinks that one of the coaches may have asked her to come along to provide a benchmark for newcomers to be compared against. She finished third out of the 23 scullers, beaten only by Anne Marden, an American living in London who had been a the silver medallist at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics, and Ali Gill, who became the openweight GB single sculler that year.
She also competed in the trials in February 1990, coming top out of the lightweight singles, and in March 1990 when she did various doubles. Again, she can’t remember for certain why she came back to, but says, “I think I felt that 1988 was unfinished business in a way, and people at the club were still telling me that I was going faster than everyone else.” After that she didn’t row for most of the rest of the summer because she’d developed carpal tunnel problems from having to do an unusual amount of typing at work, and these were so severe that she couldn’t feel her fingers and kept dropping things. However, she was able to get this treated at the British Olympic Medical Centre where she was involved because she was taking part in some research into osteoporosis in slim female athletes, and this enabled her to come fifth at the National Championships and then take part in some re-trials in July 1990 which were run because the World Championships that year weren’t taking place until November – much later than usual – because they were in Tasmania.
After trying various combinations, she formed a double with Shauna McGibbon, which faced the serious logistical challenge that Carrie was working night shifts at her job as a foreign exchange trader, while Shauna was a doctor in Glasgow, also working shifts. “I took some time off and spent a few training days in Glasgow with her,” Carrie remembers, “And then we went out to Amsterdam regatta along with two other British doubles. The results there were such that Bob Michaels, who was in charge, proposed that us and one of the other doubles had another race off three weeks later to decide who would go to the Worlds, “But I said that was ridiculous because whichever crew was going to go needed to have a solid block of training preparing for that, and not be tapering in the middle to peaking for an internal trial, and anyway by then it was only about six weeks before the team were due to travel out to Australia. So I told him just to decide, though I added that I only wanted to go if I had a medal chance, and realistically I didn’t think either double really did, which proved to be correct. He chose the other double.”
Carrie finished her competitive rowing career by winning openweight quads at the National Championships in 1991 after jumping into a Tideway Scullers’ crew at the last minute. After this she continued to single scull regularly on the Tideway, and then from Maidenhead RC and later Marlow RC when she moved to that area with her rowing coach husband Chris.
Having been encouraged to move into coaching by Rosie Mayglothling, Carrie went to the 1991 Under 23 World Championships as coach to the lightweight women’s double, but says this was really just looking after them at the event rather than real coaching.
However, from about 2010 she was asked by the Marlow RC junior boys’ coach to be the responsible adult looking after his youngsters in the school summer holidays and this developed into much more full-on coaching of a J16 quad which qualified for the Fawley at Henley Royal Regatta in 2011. Still under her guidance, the core of the crew then won the event in 2013. Various members of the group have since gone on to win the gold medal at the FISU World University Rowing Championships, two silver medals at U23 level, and two are now training with the GB senior squad, “So you can see how lucky I was with the quality of the athletes in my quad!,” she says.
© Helena Smalman-Smith, 2019.