Photo credit – World Rowing/Benedict Tufnell
Just a few weeks ago, Emily Craig became world champion for the second year in a row in the women’s lightweight double scull. Alongside her partner, Imogen Grant, the duo decimated a stacked field of seasoned Olympians and internationals to firmly establish themselves as the leading contender for gold at the Paris Olympics next summer. All of this was achieved in a Filippi, testament to the craftsmanship and quality that the fastest rowers in the world place their trust in.
Emily caught up with Filippi UK days after her exploits in Belgrade to talk through another magical season, how the pairing continue to scale ever-greater heights and their preparations for a run at Olympic glory…
Congratulations on once again becoming a world champion. How does that feel?
It doesn’t get any less special crossing the line first! It was pretty incredible becoming World Champion last year after an unbeaten season and it is insane and a little bit surreal that we have done it twice now. I think we will both hold onto the fact that, regardless of what happens this coming season, we have achieved something quite extraordinary together
In the final, you appeared to be in complete control almost from the off. How did it feel in the boat and who were you most worried about during the race?
The race felt very controlled throughout. We certainly didn’t write off any of the other crews and after a season of racing we were both aware of the points in the race where some crews were likely to be stronger than others. For us the process is very important and it is what we work on day in and day out so racing and the race plan start to feel like second nature
Talk to me about the season. Highs, lows, key moments and what you believe it means approaching the Paris Olympics?
I found for me there was more pressure this season. Last year I had come back from a break and could approach it with the attitude of ‘oh well, if it goes wrong I’ll just retire‘. This year had a much bigger emotional, mental and physical investment. Getting a world best time in Varese was pretty cool but I think my favourite race of the season was our final in Lucerne – it felt like the most complete execution of our race plan. Obviously reigning World Champions is a nice way to start the 2024 Olympic season but it comes with added pressure. I think we are both good at celebrating the successes but then getting back to the grind and not taking anything for granted
A lot of people talk about your double as one of the technical stand-outs. How do you perceive it from within?
I think we know how we want the boat to feel from within and our coach Darren has a very clear and simple technical model. I’ve never particularly thought of myself as a technically accomplished sculler though and I’ll often hate the way I’m rowing when we look back at a video!
Coming off the back of a fourth-placed finish in Tokyo, how much motivation has that provided you and Imogen with for this Olympiad?
Beyond the motivation to come back and have another crack at an Olympics I’m not sure the fourth place in Tokyo really drives us anymore. It was a very distressing time for many reasons beyond the end result and a lot of work has gone into putting some demons to rest and moving on.
Approaching Paris, the goal is obviously Olympic gold. How will the season look in an ideal world as you build towards that moment?
An ideal season would very much look like the one we have just had! Neither of us take results for granted and we know that the rest of the world will be throwing absolutely everything they have at us! For now it’s time to have a break then get back to training and lay the foundations that will hopefully set us up for next summer
How do you and Imogen make such a fantastic team? What are the strengths that you bring that might complement her toolkit?
We have now been through so much together that there is such a strong underlying respect and trust. I think Imo is naturally more confident in us and our ability and I draw from that quite a lot, especially around racing. Traditionally I’ve been the slightly calmer and steadier half around training and in the past I’ve been the one to hold us back from overdoing things. But now we’ve worked together for so long we often find we are both naturally on the same page with any tweaks we make to the training programme without having to discuss it
You’ve been a long-time supporter of Filippi. Tell us a little more about how the boats have helped and supported you in your journey.
I first started rowing in Filippi shells as a junior. Every international race and medal that I have won, including the three world championship golds, have been in Filippi boats. They have supported the GB lightweight squad for years as well as me personally, providing a single for training and trialling. They’ve also been incredible with the support they provide at regattas, particularly when some minor incidents have occurred…
What is your favourite aspect about Filippi boats?
I love that Filippi have really put the time into creating hulls for lightweights rather than taking an openweight hull and making it small. I also enjoy the run on the boat and responsiveness of a Filippi – you are really rewarded for sculling well