Kathy Long (née Talbot)

Years 1984 Olympic Games (4+ 7th)
Clubs New College BC, Isis BC, University of London BC, Thames RC, Imperial College BC, Lea RC, Tideway Scullers’ School
Height  5’2″ or 157 cm
Racing weight 6 stone 13 lb or 44 kg
Born 1961

Getting into rowing

Kathy got into rowing when she went to New College, Oxford to read physics in 1980. “Some of my friends decided they wanted to row and they all said, ‘You can cox because you’re small,’ And I thought, ‘Well, I suppose so,'” she explains.

Her first experience of racing, was at Christchurch Regatta, towards the end of the autumn term. It didn’t go well. “We were really fast, and in our first race we were actually beating Somerville and they all had matching t-shirts and a shell eight when we were in a clinker!,” she recalls. “But then we caught the biggest crab I’ve still seen, which brought us to a halt. It could have been the greatest upset, because Somerville went on to win by streets, and we were the first ever women’s eight from New College because it had only gone mixed the year before, instead of which two of our crew gave up for various reasons and we were never as good again.”

2 eights crashing into each other

New College vs Somerville at Christchurch Regatta 1980. (Photo: Kathy Talbot’s personal collection.)

Coxing Isis

In her final year, 1983, Kathy became the first woman to cox Isis, the Oxford reserve As Goldie (the Cambridge reserve boat) happened to have the first woman cox – Mandy Billson – that Cambridge had ever had in either of its boats, the Isis-Goldie race that year was the first of the men’s Boat Races to feature two female coxes. Dan Topolski commented in his book Boat Race: The Oxford Revival that, “The two women coxes fought a desperate duel to the Mile Post where a Goldie crab allowed [Isis] to break quickly away.”

International coxing

After graduating that summer, Kathy did teacher training at Chelsea College, University of London, purely so that she could be in London to join the GB squad. PGCE courses don’t seem to have been terribly onerous at that time, “And the school I was placed at was on Hammersmith Broadway which was particularly convenient for rowing out of the ARA as we used to in those days!,” Kathy says.

She was selected to cox the women’s four at the 1984 Olympic Games. A full account of that season can be found here.

Members of her crew have described her as, “Brilliant”, “The most professional cox I’ve ever had,” and “Pretty chilled.”

GB women in striped t-shirts

At LA84. From left: Kate Panter, Jean Genchi, Tessa Millar, Richard Ayling, Kathy Talbot, Ruth Howe, Kate McNicol. (Photo: Jean Genchi’s personal collection.)

After LA84

Although open to carry on coxing seriously after she returned from the LA Olympics, despite starting work, she found that as far as the GB squad went “There didn’t seem to be a long term plan and the whole thing fell apart rather, so wasn’t anything for me to do.”

Independently of the squad, she coxed fellow members of the 1984 team Tessa Millar, Astrid Ayling, Sarah Hunter-Jones, along with former international Pauline Bird to win the women’s pennant at the Head of the River Fours that autumn, and the following summer remembers racing as Tideway Scullers in a regatta which was offering money prizes. “Scullers didn’t have a clubhouse then, and we wanted to win to raise money for the building fund. The ‘burn’ call was for the women’s toilet! We did a four and won that, and then I swapped into the men’s eight mid-stream and won that too so we made £500 towards the TSS building,” she recalls.

Women with butcher in Putney

The winning WO4+at HOR4s From left: Kathy Talbot, Astrid Ayling, John Bernard (a butcher of Smithfield who sponsored them in kind by providing the rowers with weekly steaks for six weeks beforehand), Tessa Millar, Sarah Hunter-Jones, Pauline Bird. (Photo © John Bernard.)

She went on to cox for England at the Home International in 1987 with a Thames crew and in 1991 representing Lea RC. In 1992 she won the Thames Cup at Henley, also with the Lea, setting new records for the race and to the Barrier, and equaling the record to Fawley in the final.

Umpiring career

After a break from rowing for some years while she raised twins (her son rows but her daughter “had more imagination”), Kathy qualified as an umpire in 2015.