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Pembury rower Emily Craig hoping for perfect Parisian ending to inspirational story that began after disappointment at Tokyo Olympics

Pembury rower Emily Craig is hellbent on banishing her Olympic demons as she pursues the Paris podium this summer.

Craig was one of the 42 rowers, across 10 boats, who were selected by the British Olympic Association to represent Team GB in the French capital this week.

Pembury's Emily Craig will represent Team GB at the Paris Olympics. Picture: Team GB
Pembury's Emily Craig will represent Team GB at the Paris Olympics. Picture: Team GB

Her Olympic debut in Tokyo three years earlier ended in heartbreak, setting a world-best time in the heats only to miss out on the podium in an agonising 0.01sec photo finish with partner Imogen Grant - the picture of which has been hanging on Craig’s wall ever since to push her that much further.

The motivational memento has clearly been doing the job, with the three-time world champion currently on a formidable unbeaten run.

“We came back with a lot of intent and a bit of a mission, and hopefully we're going to see that through to the end,” Craig said at the team announcement at Kew Gardens.

“Obviously we've had quite a good three years so far of being unbeaten, and that alone has kind of made it worth kind of coming back from the disappointment of Tokyo.

“It would be very nice to finish it off in Paris, but we shall see.”

Craig is one of more than 1,000 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing her to train full-time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering medical support.

With the picture of her photo finish having almost taunted her for the past three years, some may guess that an Olympic gold medal would result in the disposal of the framed photo.

However, that won’t be the case for the 31-year-old, who says: “It won't come down. I think it's quite an important part of what's been quite a long career with a lot of ups and downs.

“I don't see it as negative. Covid was a really difficult year in a lot of ways and we came half a second off winning a gold medal, so imagine what we can achieve when there is no pandemic.

“Now it's surrounded by lots of world champion certificates so that’s quite nice.”

Going into the lightweight women’s double sculls event as heavy favourites, Craig and Grant aren’t feeling the pressure of being top dogs - and wouldn’t sacrifice their winning run for the target that’s now on their backs.

“I think we've done enough losing for one lifetime,” Craig added. “We're coming into the games in the position everyone wants to be in, but I don't think either of us are taking that for granted.

“It’s still like quite a scary place to be, but I'm also quite glad we've not lost, because no one likes to lose.”

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