Grainger prepared for challenge of a lifetime as she chases fifth Olympic medal
In professional sport there is only one law that counts – the law of the jungle.
No-one understands that better than Katherine Grainger – Team GB’s joint most decorated female Olympian of all time and a fully-qualified lawyer with a PhD in sentencing in homicide.
Now at the age of 40 – Grainger knows her previous achievements will count for nothing in the cut throat world of Olympic rowing as she aims to medal for the fifth Games in a row.
And while London 2012 was a cruise to gold for Grainger alongside Anna Watkins, the build-up to Rio 2016 has been less smooth for the Glasgow sculler.
After returning in September 2014 following a two-year sabbatical – she teamed up with Vicky Thornley.
The duo finished sixth in last year’s Worlds to qualify a spot before then missing out on a medal at the European Championships in May of this year - prompting a late attempted switch to the women’s eight.
They had trials for the larger boat but the potential move did not materialise in the end.
Now confirmed as a pair in Rio, Grainger knows she and Thornley will have to up their game for the Greatest Show on Earth.
"I've been to four Olympics and come back with four medals. My expectations are very high. I'm not going to lower them; there's no way I'd lower them," she said.
"I’ve never aimed for anything less than gold. This year has had more challenges than I ever would have imagined.
"When I made the decision to come back I would never have predicted, or chosen, the path that I’ve been on. But in sport, as in life, you make the most of what you have.
"In a way it's always harder when there's options there. We've been back in the double since and it is that simple: you focus your mind on what you need to do. The double has gone a lot better since.
"I will be sure to use all those challenges to make me more determined and focused at the Olympics."
Grainger became Team GB’s most decorated female Olympian alongside swimmer Rebecca Adlington when she won double sculls gold with Watkins – adding to the silver medals she had won at the previous three Olympic Games.
Since London 2012 she has completed a PhD in sentencing of homicide at King’s College, London to follow on from her Law degree and previous MPhil in Medical Law and Medical Ethics.
She battled long and hard with her decision over whether to return or not before finally opting for another crack at the Olympic podium.
The double sculls heats get underway on Saturday at the Lagoa Stadium so the time for doubting is now over and Grainger and Thornley are confident they can upset the applecart against a tough field that includes Kiwi pair and reigning world champions champions Eve MacFarlane and Zoe Stevenson.
"There was a surprise, almost, it could be this hard. I didn't foresee it when I came back," added Grainger.
"I knew coming back was a huge task for me physically and mentally, getting back in a boat and back to where my standards were and expectations were. I always saw that as being the biggest test I'd face.
"I accepted that was the price you pay for taking time out. I didn't then expect to go through the rollercoaster this year, which was challenging in very different ways.
"It is hard, but it didn't ever make me think 'I wish I hadn't come back.'
"Absolutely I'm out there to get back on the podium. But I'm genuinely not thinking about that point of the regatta."