Kate McNicol

Years 1983 World Championships (8o 8th)
1984 Olympic Games (8o 5th)
Clubs University of London Women’s BC, Tideway Scullers’ School
Height  5’10¾” or 180 cm
Racing weight 11 stone or 70 kg
Born 1961

The photo at the top of this page shows Kate on the left at four in the GB eight at their training camp in San Diego prior to the 1984 Olympic Games. (Photo: Kate Holroyd’s personal collection.)

Getting into rowing

Kate took up rowing in the autumn of 1979 when she went to University College, London to study medicine. “I hadn’t been particularly sporty at school so I thought I’d try something different,” she remembers.

Her first sessions were in the UCL tank which, improbably, was on the fourth floor of a UCL building in Gordon Street which has now been replaced by a modern fitness centre. “It was a funny place – rather dark with murky, mouldy water, but I really quite liked it,” she recalls. She won her novice pot at Cambridge regatta the following summer in a coxed four.

At the start of her third year, by which time she was Captain of ULWBC, she was on the lookout for more coaches. Conveniently, Nicola Boyes, who had rowed for GB three times, including at the Moscow Olympics in 1980, happened to be working as a junior doctor for Kate’s father, who was a consultant at Central Middlesex Hospital. Nicola was persuaded to come and do a bit of coaching, but being involved with rowing again after a year’s break made her realise that she’d much rather row again herself. Kate and Nicola consequently started doing a pair, which very much accelerated Kate’s rowing development.

That summer – 1982 –  they took the silver medal at the National Championships behind the GB pair (as well as a second silver in a fairly scratch composite eight made up of other past, present and future internationals, again behind the GB crew), and went on to represent England at the Home Countries regatta, which they won.

Bow 5 of women's eight

The final of the women’s eights at the National Championships in 1982. Kate is second from the right. (Photo: Kate McNicol’s personal collection.)

International career

Kate joined the GB squad in the autumn of 1982 and rowed in the eight at the 1983 World Championships and the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, which she thoroughly enjoyed. “I just loved rowing, especially the Olympic build-up. It was a great thing to be able to do,” she says, although she admits to occasional doubts, particularly in 1983, about whether she should have been spending so much time on rowing rather than focusing solely on her medical studies.

Full accounts of both of her years representing GB can be found here:

1983 | 1984

Women rowers in Amsterdam

At Amsterdam Regatta in 1983. From left: Kate McNicol, a Russian, Tessa Millar, Sue Bailey, Kareen Marwick. (Photo: Kate McNicol’s personal collection.)

After LA

Having taken a year out from university to compete at the Olympics because her finals would have clashed with the last part of the team’s preparations, she returned to her course in the autumn of 1984.

“Although I knew I’d got to get on with studying again, I found it very difficult to go from full on training to doing nothing, and that was pretty depressing,” she remembers. To wean herself off it a bit more gently, she and Alexa Forbes (who had also been in the eight in LA) started rowing in a pair, really just for enjoyment although they competed at the National Championships in 1985.

Later rowing

A few years later, Kate went to work in Australia and took up high-performance rowing again. “I was the 1990 Western Australia pairs champion, and I rowed in the WA eight as well,” she recalls. She was impressed with the facilities available in Australia at the time, compared with her experiences in Britain just a few years earlier. “They were really switched on about testing, so we went to do a VO2 max test which was really painful, and that made me realise that I’d have to take my training to another level if I was going to carry on, and I didn’t really want to do that when I was working and trying to have a social life, so I didn’t do anything after that.”

Kate is now based near Portsmouth and for a few years did occasional outings with Langstone Cutters RC which rows on the south coast in a variety of traditional fixed-seat ‘pulling’ boats. “They’re a fun group, and it was nice to do something local, but it wasn’t like rowing on an inland river in a fine boat so I got into cycling for instead,” she says, although she’s recently been tempted back into a boat at Tideway Scullers.