Kate Miller

Year1989 World Rowing Championships (2- 11th)
ClubsHild Bede BC, Durham University Women’s BC, Thames RC, Tideway Scullers’ School
Height5’10” or 178 cm

The photo at the top of this page shows Kate (third from left) with her Thames RC crew known as the ‘Good Time Girls’ wearing the club’s first lycra all-in-ones in 1987 and is © John Shore.

Getting into rowing

Like many, Kate’s rowing story started in freshers week – in her case at Durham University in 1981. “I went along to the college boat club with some of my new friends to see what rowing was… and got hooked,” she remembers. Her first win was in novice coxed fours at Durham Regatta the following summer.

  • woman in blue sweatshirt holding oar
  • bw photo of women's eight rowing

She went on to row for the university in her second year. “That was when I really learned how to row, particularly in the coxed four I did,” she says. “We had a great year and were really successful including winning the BUSF regatta in Nottingham, of which we were rather proud.”

In 1984 Kate was president of Durham University Women’s BC (as it then was), and expanded her rowing experience to training in a pair with GB trialist and later international Anna Page.

Senior rowing career

After leaving university, Kate moved to London and joined Thames RC because, as she says, it was then THE place to be for serious women’s rowing. Numerous past, present and future internationals were members there and the crews with which she enjoyed many wins in the 1985 to 1987 seasons variously contained Pauline Rayner, Sue Key, Kate Grose, Debbie Flewin and Sally Andreae.

b/w photo of women's coxed four
Kate at 2 racing at the Head of the River Fours in 1986 with Thames RC. (Photo: Kate Miller’s personal collection.)

In 1987, her coxed four with Katie Brownlow, Caroline Christie and Lizzi Chapman styled themselves the ‘Good Time Girls’ and had a huge amount of fun racing at Ghent and winning at Elite level at Docklands, Nottingham International, and Reading as well as at several more local events (anyone remember Watney Sprint? – Ed). They topped off their season with a silver medal at the National Championships behind a GB squad crew. This won them selection as the England crew for the Home Countries Regatta, which they also won. Kate adds, “That season we were the first Thames crew to wear lycra, I seem to remember, and we liked it a lot!”

Women's four with pots
Kate (back row, second from right) with the Good Time Girls and their coaches Tessa Millar and Martin Levy at Newark Regatta at the National Watersports Centre in 1987. (Photo: Kate Miller’s personal collection.)

Having reached the top of the domestic rowing scene, Kate wanted to take the next step and go for GB selection. As these started with single sculls trials, she switched clubs to Tideway Scullers School to learn. “TSS was also on big recruitment drive and several of my Thames mates had also moved there too,” she explains, adding that she remembers training in a pair with 1984 Olympian Ann Redgrave. She made the GB squad cut to 24 in late January 1988 and rowed in the second GB squad crew at the Women’s Head, but didn’t make it into the last 16 that was announced at the beginning of April.

women's eight at the finish
From bow: Lizzi Chapman, Aggie Barnett, Suzanne Kirk, Kate Miller, Sally Andreae, Ruth Howe, Jackie Prout, Fiona Freckleton, Toddy Russ (cox). (Photo © John Shore.)

Back in a TSS coxed four with Louise Rokosh, Kareen Marwick and Steph Dancer, she won at Nottinghamshire International, the first Henley Women’s Regatta, and Home Countries.

  • b/w photo of women's fours racing at Henley
  • Black and white photo of women's coxless four
  • 4 women rowers in red shorts with medals, coach and cox
  • Group of women with large silver trophy

Kate trialled for GB again for the 1989 season. She won Senior I at the Women’s Head with TSS and at Ghent in a TSS quad with Louise Rokosh, Suzanne Kirk and Kareen Marwick.

  • Women's eight racing, cox wearing number 6.
  • 4 women in TSS kit with medals

Kate and Louise were then selected to race in a GB pair at Duisburg and Lucerne where they finished 12th and were also beaten by other British crews from Kingston RC and University of London WBC. As a result, no GB pair was sent to the World Championships that year but Kate went as the travelling spare.

2 women in GB all in ones
Kate (left) and Louise at Duisburg Regatta in 1989. (Photo: Kate Miller’s personal collection.)

Spares usually have a frustrating and uneventful time at World Championships and the training camps that run up to them as they need to keep doing (in single sculls) all the same training that the selected crews are doing, but without any end goal and with little or any attention paid to them. On this occasion, things were different. First it looked like Kate would be subbed into the quad after bow sculler, Debbie Flewin, became ill and collapsed during training two days before the crew’s straight final. In the end, it was decided that Debbie could race, but Kate did finish up racing in the pair with Kim Thomas after her original partner Ali Bonner hurt her back during the repechage.

This was an extremely non-ideal experience for all concerned: Ali had been at stroke in the pair, so the boat was re-rigged to put Kim at stroke, yet there was almost no time for the new combination to practice. “I think we got a warm up that morning, and maybe a paddle the night before as well,” Kim recalls. They raced in a five-boat small final in which they finished fifth. “It was not much fun,” Kate says with admirable restraint. She then sculled in the race for spares in which she was pleased not to be last.

In the 1990 season, Kate did well at early trials and made the cut to 14 in April. She won at Ghent in a squad quad and at Henley Women’s Regatta in a GB coxless four with Kareen Marwick, Caroline Christie and Miriam Batten. After losing her seat in the four to clubmate Kate Grose, Kate took the silver medal behind the new lineup at the National Championships. Impressively, she won a second silver in the pairs with Lesley Baguley and bronze in the single sculls. She was recalled for some late squad retrials in August, but was eliminated in the final round of these.

6 women with medals and man who has presented them
The Tideway Scullers women medallists from the National Championships in 1990. From left: Nicky Dale, Priscilla Plummer, Gill Hodges, Jo Toch, Lesley Baguley, Kate Miller. (Photo: Kate Miller’s personal collection.)

After finishing second at the Women’s Head and winning the Club pennant in March 1991, Kate was one of the 28 openweights invited to the first closed assessment in April but her only squad regatta appearance was in the second GBR coxless four at Ghent. Instead, she raced her single a lot, winning at Metropolitan, Docklands and Peterborough Summer, and won the quads at the National Championships with J Lloyd, Nicky Dale and Carrrie Wood as well as taking the silver medal in the single sculls behind the GB lightweight single sculler Sue Appelboom.

Once again in 1992 Kate reached final trials in April, but wasn’t invited on to the next stage. Nevertheless she was still right at the top of domestic competition, winning the Women’s Head with Tideway Scullers by eight seconds from Thames RC in a crew that contained six other current GB squad members: Kate Grose, Annabel Eyres, Kareen Marwick, Suzanne Kirk, Jo Toch and Gill Hodges. Kate was also the sixth woman at the Scullers Head, fourth in the singles at Paris Regatta, and went on to win Open Singles at Henley Women’s Regatta beating the top Irish sculler and future international Mary Hussey in the final. “Mary was very sweet,” Kate remembers. “I rowed her down but she came to find me after the race to tell me that, as a result of the race, she had been selected for something because it was so epic.”

Kate was elected Captain of Tideway Scullers in 1993 and decided not to trial again as well. She rowed in the club’s first eight with the 1992 Olympians Rachel Stanhope, Kate Grose, Jo Turvey and Annabel Eyres at the Women’s Head. They finished second, five seconds behind Thames RC, but were awarded the win as one of the Thames crew’s Amateur Rowing Association membership had expired. That summer she spent the season in a quad with Annabel, Rachel and Helen Bruce. “We had a fabulous time winning at Henley Women’s,” Kate remembers happily.

  • women's eight in red and yellow kit
  • women's quad racing in red shorts

After this, she explains, she stopped rowing completely although she took on the captaincy of TSS in 1997 for a second time. “The club had been thorough a rather divisive period when there were separate men’s and women’s captains and I was asked back to bring everyone together,” she explains, adding, “I sculled a bit that year and was very demoralised when I was asked to keep an eye on a novice called Debbie Flood who had just started sculling… and I simply could not keep up with her!” [Debbie went on to represent GB 11 times including at three Olympic Games (2004-2012) where she won two silver medals. – Ed.]

Reflecting on her rowing career now, Kate says, “I absolutely loved the teamwork of ‘big crew’ rowing and sculling and had a fantastic time racing and winning. I have wonderful friends from that period – Annabel, Kate Grose, Flo, Suzanne, Kareen, Debbie and I still get together and have a great, enduring friendship – and I’m proud to have been captain at TSS, which is a wonderful club.” And as for whether she was unlucky not to have rowed for GB more, she says, “By ‘missing out’ on selection I often ended up having a happier time because I went to regattas and won in happy crews, when I know that my ‘luckier’ friends who did get selected often ended up really unhappy and feeling let down by the system. I have no regrets.” 

2 women in red, yellow and white tops racing in double scull
Kate (right) with Nicky Dale in her last ever race at the World Masters Regatta in Vienna in 1993. “Wer came nowhere, but it was a great trip,” she remembers. (Photo: Kate Miller’s personal collection.)

© Helena Smalman-Smith, 2022.