'Underdog' Kat Copeland set for European Rowing Championships

By Lawrence BarrettoBBC Sport
European Rowing Championships: GB's Kat Copeland 'focussed on Rio'

Olympic champion Kat Copeland describes herself as an "underdog" for her first major regatta since London 2012 at the European Championships.

Copeland, who won a shock gold with Sophie Hosking at the London Olympics before taking a break from the sport, will row with Imogen Walsh in Belgrade.

The 23-year-old told BBC Sport: "This is only my second major championships in an Olympic boat.

"I'm still inexperienced so I feel like an underdog and I quite like that."

Copeland and Hosking win gold for GB

Britain will send a team of 50 GB rowers across 17 boat classes to the three-day regatta, which starts on Friday, with Copeland among the main medal hopes.

Copeland declared her intention to defend her Olympic lightweight double sculls title just months after the London Games but it was not until last winter that she returned to training full-time, by which time her 2012 partner Hosking had announced her retirement.

"I did train last year, but I also had a four-month holiday," said Copeland. "I'm so pleased I did that because it gave me time and some space to process what happened in London.

"Now that I'm back, I can put that medal in the past and focus completely on Rio."

Copeland will team up with 2013 world finalist Walsh in the lightweight double, having come out on top in the statistics over the winter.

"The double is quite an intimate boat because there are only two of you so you need to click quite well," said Copeland. "I'm excited about the challenge of developing together."

Helen Glover, who competes with Polly Swann in the women's pair after Heather Stanning was ruled out because of fatigue, is looking to add European gold to her Olympic and world titles.

The pair will be favourites for gold in Belgrade despite only having had a few weeks of training in the combination before the regatta.

"We rowed together all year in 2013 so I'm not worried," said Glover. "It would be nice to win the European title, but we'll face strong competition from Romania, who took the silver behind us at the World Championships."

On the men's side, the new-look coxless four of Alex Gregory, Andy Triggs Hodge, Moe Sbihi and George Nash will be Britain's leading medal contenders.

Gregory and Triggs Hodge won gold in London in the same boat while Sbihi and Nash won bronze in the eight and pair respectively.

"I was in the four from 2009 to 2012 before spending last year in the eight so it feels like I'm coming home," said Gregory. "It's a great boat to be part of which makes heading to these championships very exciting."

Organisers of the regatta said last weekexternal-link that the event would go ahead as planned despite the recent flooding in the country which they described as "the worst natural catastrophe in Serbia's history".

The heats will take place on Friday, followed by semi-finals on Saturday and finals, which will be live on the Red Button and BBC Two, on Sunday.