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Page last updated at 22:33 GMT, Sunday, 20 March 2011

Watkins beats Grainger at Women's Head of the River

By Martin Gough

Anne Watkins and Katherine Grainger
Watkins and Grainger won world gold together in November

Anna Watkins beat her likely London 2012 partner Katherine Grainger for the second time this year, at the Women's Head of the River Race.

Watkins and Grainger - world champions in the double scull - raced for their clubs in the River Thames time trial.

Watkins, 28, from Staffordshire, was part of a Leander Club eight, which beat Grainger's crew by 34 seconds.

Last month she beat Grainger, 35, in a trial in single sculls, although the key selection race is on 17 April.

The whole GB squad got to spend a week of training on the Thames in London, rather than at their usual lake base at Caversham near Reading.

We had one weekend with the joy of racing then it's back to hard training

Anna Watkins

The two crews finished first and second in a race containing 299 crews of all standards from around the UK and Europe.

"It's a chance to take a week away from GB squad duties and to row for our clubs," Watkins told BBC Sport.

"It's good to get out and race because the winter is full of training with not enough racing."

Grainger, racing for Marlow Rowing Club, sat in the stroke seat of a crew that included retired Olympic medallists Elise Laverick and Sarah Winckless.

But they were unable to match Leander - a crew containing seven senior internationals - whose time of 18 minutes 6.57 seconds was only 0.27 seconds off the race record.

The event offered a chance to mix up the sculling specialists like Watkins and Grainger with the less-experienced sweep squad who make up the GB eight and pair during the summer season.

The squad will now split back into their two groups and step up their training for the start of the World Cup season at the end of May.

First they must undergo selection trials at 2012 venue Dorney Lake in four weeks' time, before crews for the summer are announced.

"Our coach, Paul Thompson, thinks we haven't done anything for the last week so he's got something really tough lined up," Watkins joked.

"We had one weekend with the joy of racing then it's back to hard training."

"We'll have two weeks of solid training, with three sessions per day. We'll be wasting no time moving our fitness on."

Watkins is confident she and Grainger will be back in the double scull - voted world women's crew of the year in 2010 - this season but is not taking selection trials for granted.

And she played down the rivalry with Grainger, whose run of nine successive national trials victories is at stake next month.

The duo have only occasionally trained in the double scull since winning the world title in New Zealand in November.

"I'm definitely fitter this year. I had a whole season without hiccups last year so this year I can really step on," said Watkins.

"I know we're quicker, Katherine is fitter so it's all good.

"We both know the bigger picture - we're competing [in selection] every winter and racing together every summer.

"We always leave our competition on the water. We're close friends and that's not something you can choose - just like you can't choose your family."

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see also
Olympic rowing award for Grainger
30 Jan 11 |  Rowing
Britain head Worlds medal table
07 Nov 10 |  Rowing
Hodge & Reed shine in GB trials
12 Apr 10 |  Rowing
Rowing weight classes explained
30 May 08 |  Rowing
Rowing boat classes explained
30 May 08 |  Rowing
Power to your pull, with Andy Hodge
06 Jun 08 |  Rowing
Rowing on the BBC
15 Oct 10 |  Rowing

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