Rowing: Bishop and Grainger bonded by a common goal

It would be fair to say that top British oarswomen Cath Bishop and Katherine Grain-ger have decidedly contrasting ideas about what their future holds post-Olympics. The former, who works for the Foreign Office, intends to take up a diplomatic posting in Sarajevo; her task to help in the reconstruction of Bosnia. The latter, and her partner in the coxless pair, rather fancies usurping Sue Barker's position as TV's most popular anchorwoman and, in truth, it wouldn't entirely surprise you if the feisty Scot did eventually make it as a presenter on the small screen.

Before then, however, both are determined that they will establish themselves as Our Women in Athens. And with considerable justification. The female counterparts of Pinsent and Cracknell boast one of Britain's best chances of securing an Olympic gold at the regatta lake.

This week's world rowing championships at Milan's Lago Idroscalo will provide an accurate barometer of whether they are set fair for Olympic success following auspicious progress during this year's World Cup regattas, in which they have won a silver, gold and bronze. Yet, as Bishop concedes: "We're in a good position in that the fundamentals, the raw ingredients, are there. Without that, you've got no chance. But it's still a massive challenge for us to deliver. We haven't raced to our capacity yet. You can have all the potential in the world, but it's useless if it's not realised."

Bishop, 31 and originally from Leigh-on-Sea, took up rowing at Pembroke College, Cambridge. She is already a world championship medal-winner in the pair, having secured a silver with Dot Blackie at Cologne in 1998. The Glasgow-born Grainger, 27, was first enticed into the sport at Edinburgh University.

They got together after Sydney, where Grainger won a silver in the quadruple sculls - which made her a member of the first-ever British women's crew to win an Olympic medal - and Bishop finished ninth in the pair. "Because of our height (Bishop is 6ft 3in, Grainger 6ft 1in) and our power, it made sense to try and get a pair together," explains Grainger. "We tried in 2001, but we'd both taken time off after the Olympics so we weren't at our fittest and meanest."

Last year, Grainger returned to the quad, but after that boat finished fifth in the world championships in Seville - an event in which Great Britain won three golds, a silver and two bronzes - she renewed her association with Bishop, who had been working full-time for the Foreign Office.

Bishop reduced her working hours to accommodate a demanding training schedule, but is adamant that, whatever the outcome in Athens, she will retire from the sport to concentrate on her career. "Last year, I was working on EU matters; this year I have been dealing with asylum and immigration issues," she says. "It's been important to me that I continue working, otherwise you can get over-consumed by the rowing."

The women have arrived in Milan following training camps at Breisach in Austria and Varese, Italy, where the temperatures reached 40C. "It's nice to talk about the dreams, the goals and the achievements," says Grainger. "But what will make all that come true is the day in, day out grind. Because that's what it is; the training's very hard and monotonous. It isn't fun and it isn't enjoyable. You put yourself through all this because you are absolutely convinced it will pay off. If we didn't have that belief, it would be incredibly tough."

The final of the women's pair takes place at 11.15am on Saturday, 15 minutes before Matthew Pinsent and James Cracknell attempt to repeat last year's scintillating world championships performance at Seville.

Grainger adds: "We haven't had a great deal of time this year to put things together, but the medals we've won in every regatta we've done has given us confidence. In training and in racing, we get glimpses of the amazing result that we believe we can achieve. We haven't put it all together yet. Obviously, the Olympics is our main goal, but the world championships are an important stepping stone."

To judge by their demean-our, though, the pair are ready to make a giant stride.

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