Katherine Grainger: UK Sport names Olympic gold medallist as new chair

Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins
Katherine Grainger (right) won gold in the double sculls alongside Anna Watkins at London 2012

Olympic gold medallist Dame Katherine Grainger has been named as the new chair of UK Sport.

Great Britain's most decorated female Olympian retired from rowing after winning a medal at a fifth Games last summer.

The 41-year-old will succeed Rod Carr as head of the funding agency for elite sport.

Grainger was up against former Paralympic swimmer Marc Woods, who also competed at five Games.

"I am absolutely thrilled to be appointed as the next UK Sport chair," Grainger said.

"I am also very honoured to be joining the team at UK Sport and building on the success and commitment to excellence that I have witnessed and enjoyed as an athlete.

"I'm also acutely aware of the many challenging issues currently within sport and I hope to play a role in addressing them."

Carr will step down from his position at the end of his term on 22 April, and Grainger will start on 1 July.

The appointment comes as recommendations aimed at improving athletes' welfare have been published as part of a major independent report into British sport.

They are the result of a year-long duty of care review, commissioned by the UK government and led by 11-time Paralympic gold medallist Baroness Grey-Thompson.

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Katherine Grainger: 'Still getting used to being a dame'

Sports Minister Tracey Crouch said: "Dame Katherine is a peerless leader both on the water and off it.

"As one of our greatest ever Olympians, she has an outstanding understanding of high performance sport, and through her educational and charity work has a proven commitment to inclusion.

"I know she will be an inspiring chair of UK Sport. I would also like to thank outgoing chair Rod Carr for his superb work at the helm of UK Sport over the past four years."

The Scot took two years out after winning Olympic gold in London at her fourth attempt, studying for a PhD and working with the BBC on its coverage of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. She returned to compete in Brazil, where she won her fourth silver medal.

"London was an incredible end point in my career but for personal reasons I wanted to come back and have another go," she told BBC Scotland in 2016.

"The (last) medal is sinking in and I understand that now but having the historical side on top takes a bit longer to get used to."

After the announcement, Julian Knight MP, a member of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, tweeted: "Hopefully she will start the process of cleaning out the Augean Stables at UK Sport and the sports they fund."

Woods also tweeted, wishing Grainger well in the position: "Whilst disappointed not to be selected as chair of UK Sport I wish Katherine Grainger all the best. I'll offer any support I can."

Analysis

BBC sports editor Dan Roan

Dame Katherine Grainger will come into this job at a critical and challenging time for UK Sport.

The funding agency may have overseen unprecedented medal success but never before has its "no-compromise" approach been under such scrutiny, amid a spate of athlete welfare and anti-doping controversies and criticism from certain sports over its funding decisions.

Grainger is a vastly decorated and inspirational Olympian, and while a surprise, her appointment will be welcomed by many athletes who want more consideration now given to duty of care.

But according to well-placed sources, she was unsure about applying for the role, and given her lack of sports administration experience, it will be interesting to see whether she can bring about the changes at UK Sport that some critics believe are now urgently required.

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