• 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8

Tokyo 2020 Preview

Posted:  22 July 2021

Team GB’s rowers take to the water at the Sea Forest Waterway on Friday morning (local time) for the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Regatta and everyone at Scottish Rowing is looking forward to getting behind the team.

A record eight Scottish rowers will represent Team GB at these Olympics as part of a 41-strong British team.  The GB team will be looking to build upon best-ever performances at both London 2012 and Rio 2016 where Scottish rowers including Heather Stanning, Katherine Grainger, Karen Bennett and Polly Swann took their place on the podium.

Five of the Scots will be making their Olympic debuts in Tokyo with only Bennett, Swann and Angus Groom returning after Rio.  Reflecting the growth in women’s rowing over recent years the majority (62.5%) of the Scottish cohort at these Olympics are women.

GB Scots

Image:  British Rowing (Missing - Lucy Glover)


Men’s Quad Scull (featuring Angus Groom and Harry Leask)

Leading off the Team GB boats (with Scottish interest) is the men’s quad which has a mix of youth and experience within its ranks.  Angus Groom, who competed for Scotland at the 2014 Commonwealth Rowing Championships, returns to the quad for these Olympics after a 5th place finish in Rio.

Harry Leask enjoyed the early part of his rowing career in Scotland representing George Heriot’s School, George Watson’s College, Clydesdale ARC and Glasgow Rowing Club before relocating to Henley to represent Leander Club at the age of 16.  The former Scottish Rowing supported athlete makes his debut at Olympic level however he has significant international experience under his belt at under 23 and senior level, including a season in the single scull during 2018.

On their day the men’s quad have the boat speed to trouble their opposition and they will be hoping to set down a strong marker in their heat on Friday morning when they take on one of the favourites, the 2019 world champions from the Netherlands.

Opening Race – 0330 (BST) Friday morning vs China, Lithuania, Australia & the Netherlands

Women’s Quad Scull
(featuring Lucy Glover)

One of the youngest members of the Team GB rowing squad at these Olympics is Lucy Glover who only made her senior GB debut at the European Rowing Championships earlier this year.  However, do not let that youthfulness fool you as Lucy is an established age-group international who has won multiple medals at junior and under 23 level including two world titles.

The Edinburgh University student and Scottish Rowing supported athlete will be sitting in the stroke seat of the women’s quad scull, a boat and seat she knows well having led her crew to a silver medal at the Europeans.

The GB women’s quad has the potential to be amongst the medals in Tokyo and a top two finish in their opening heat will see them directly through to the medal race.  Anything less will require them to come through the repechage.  China will remain the crew to beat in this event having gone unbeaten throughout 2019 however much will depend on how nations have fared through the pandemic.

Opening Race – 0350 (BST) Friday morning vs Germany, New Zealand, the Netherlands and the USA

Women’s Coxless Pair (featuring Polly Swann, coached by Hamish Burrell)

One of the most eagerly anticipated races at this year’s Olympics will be the women’s pair where two-time and reigning Olympic champion Helen Glover makes a return after nearly five years away from the sport to start a family.  Partnering with Glover is Scotland’s Polly Swann and the British crew have reason to be positive going into Tokyo.

Glover and Swann had spent one season together back in 2013 when Glover’s previous partner, Heather Stanning had taken an extended break from the sport.  The Glover / Swann combination enjoyed an unbeaten period culminating in the world title that year.

Of course, since then the Edinburgh University alumna was part of the silver medal winning GB women’s eight at Rio 2016 after which she returned to Scotland to complete her medical studies.  During the pandemic last year Polly took time away from her Olympic preparations to work in the hospital wards supporting the NHS response.

The GB pair has yet to face the rest of the world this season however they were successful in taking gold at the Europeans in Varese.  They will be expecting a much tougher race in Tokyo including the Kiwi pair who have been the dominant crew in this boat class through the Olympiad.

Hamish Burrell, formerly of George Heriot’s School and who coached Katherine Grainger during her time at Edinburgh University and St Andrew Boat Club, coaches the Great Britain women’s pair.

Opening Race – 0200 (BST) Saturday morning vs Russian Olympic Committee, Australia and China

Women’s Coxless Four (featuring Karen Bennett and Rowan McKellar)

Two Scots, Karen Bennett and Rowan McKellar, make up the new-look GB women’s four in an event making its return to the Olympic programme for the first time in nearly 30 years.  The event made way to create space for lightweight rowing at Atlanta 1996 but has been reinstated for Tokyo and has attracted a strong field.

Bennett was introduced to rowing through the Sporting Giants Talent ID initiative and learned her craft with Heart of Scotland Boat Club before joining the World Class Start programme at Clydesdale ARC, then progressing to Molesey Boat Club and Leander Club.  Bennett was part of the history-making women’s eight in Rio, winning silver in the GB crew which also included Polly Swann.

McKellar was born in Glasgow to rowing parents – both of whom represented Scotland at the 1986 Commonwealth Games.  She started her rowing journey at George Watson’s College before her family relocated to England where she represented Broxbourne Rowing Club.  A scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley, followed where she made her international debut, winning a silver medal at the world under 23 championships in the women’s pair.

A tough field awaits the women’s four including the Netherlands and Ireland who finished ahead of Great Britain on the podium at the Europeans.  The Australians, are also ones to watch with world titles in 2017 and 2019 and silver in 2018.  But the Brits will not be ones to be written off, especially with the Scottish grit and determination in this combination.

Opening Race – 0350 (BST) Saturday morning vs Canada, China, the Netherlands and Poland

Men’s Coxless Four (featuring Sholto Carnegie)

Great Britain has won this boat class at every Olympics going back to Sydney 2000 and this year’s British crew has shown strong pedigree throughout the campaign to offer hope that this winning streak can continue.

Their stroke and talisman is Sholto Carnegie, a graduate of Yale University and now representing Leander Club.  Sholto is another who has represented Great Britain at all age groups, including two silver medals at under 23 level, and has been part of the senior programme since the 2018 season.  His crew are the reigning European champions and were bronze medallists at the world championships in 2019.

Coached by Robin Williams, who led Helen Glover and Heather Stanning to back-to-back Olympic titles in 2012 and 2016, the British crew will be hoping to be guided by his wise words and Olympic experience (which members of the Scottish Rowing community will recall following his exclusive webinar series earlier this year).

Standing in their way to Olympic success will be a stacked field including Australia, who will be looking for their new ‘Oarsome Foursome’, Poland, the 2019 world champions, and South Africa.

Opening Race – 0420 (BST) Saturday morning vs Switzerland, Poland, Canada and Italy

Women’s Eight (featuring Katherine Douglas)

After becoming the first British crew to medal in a women’s eight race at Rio, the new-look GB eight featuring Edinburgh’s Katherine Douglas will have plenty of inspiration and faces to look up to.

Learning to row at Oxford Brookes University Katherine has enjoyed a steady rise through the GB ranks to become one of the more experienced heads within the women’s squad.  Like Groom and Bennett, she was part of the Scotland Rowing Team which topped the medal table at the 2014 Commonwealth Rowing Championships at Strathclyde Park.  She now represents Leander Club.

With only 7 entries, one crew will not make it through to the medal race and the competition is fierce including New Zealand, the reigning world champions, and the USA, the reigning Olympic champions.  After their blistering finish in Rio, where they came through the field from last place to take silver, no one should write off Britain’s chances of getting on the medal podium again in Tokyo.

Opening Race – 0320 (BST) Sunday morning vs Canada, China and New Zealand


Women’s Travelling Spare (Maddie Arlett)

One other Scot has travelled out to Tokyo as part of the Team GB contingent – Selkirk’s Maddie Arlett who has been selected as a spare for the women’s team.  Maddie took up the sport as a complete beginner at the University of Edinburgh and the Scottish Rowing supported athlete represented Scotland as well as Great Britain at under 23 and senior level as a lightweight rower.

At the time of writing this article we understand that Maddie and Saskia Budgett have won their spares race in the women’s double scull.  Well done Maddie!



For those in the UK, the Olympics is available free to watch on the BBC with daily highlights shows for those unable to stay up to watch the rowing.

Follow @TeamGB on social media for all the latest results and we’d love to hear how you will be cheering on our rowers so give us a shout on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @ScottishRowing