McKellar overcomes 'imposter syndrome' to set sights on Olympic glory

Rowan McKellar
Rowan McKellar first made the GB squad at the age of 21 [Getty Images]

Olympic hopeful Rowan McKellar admits she was ready to quit rowing after her career took time to get going.

The 29-year-old, who has been confirmed as part of the Great Britain women’s eight in Paris this summer, is a world and European gold medallist in the sport.

But the Glasgow-born athlete admits her ‘slow-burn’ start to competing left her considering her future before the call came to join up with the GB team.

"I rowed as a junior, trialled for GB a lot of times before I managed to actually secure a spot," she said.

"I am just very happy I didn’t because there were points where I was like, 'this is just never going to happen’ and I just had to keep plugging away.

"I was 21 [when she got into the GB squad] which doesn’t sound that old, but I had been trialling since I was 15, 16 and that is a big part of your life.

"The year I got selected, or the year before, one of my friends and I were like, ‘this is getting a bit embarrassing now, I think if it doesn’t happen next year I think we need to  call it a day’.

"It definitely did go through my mind that I had been really hanging around for a long time and not really got that far."

McKellar’s parents both rowed for Scotland in the Commonwealth Games, so success in the sport has long been on the cards.

She finished fourth in the women’s four in her Olympic debut in Tokyo - and is confident she can build on that at this year’s event.

"I had sort of an imposter syndrome, I didn’t feel like an Olympian," she said.

"I had been on the senior team for a few years but for me an Olympian was this, you are on this next pedestal up here, so I just couldn’t quite believe it was happening.

"But actually now I am like, ‘okay, this is the Olympics and this where I have strived to be’.

"We are not just going because it is our first time and we will have a really fun time, it is definitely there for a specific result."

'Years of losing definitely instilled fight in me'

Matthew Aldridge and Sholto Carnegie
Sholto Carnegie (right) is looking to go one step further than his fourth place in Tokyo [Getty Images]

Fellow Scot Sholto Carnegie is also keen to go one better in Paris after just missing out in the men’s four at Tokyo.

"It was bitterly disappointing - the feeling of not coming away with what you wanted and being on the biggest stage," he said, having been confirmed in the men's eight.

"But I think we can use that experience progressing in to Paris and be aware that we need to focus on doing our job and not focus on the outcome.

"That is the biggest lesson that I will take, I will be sitting on the start line not thinking about too much the end result.

"If I can just every day turn up, do my job, keep pushing forwards that is going to get me to the podium. If I focus too much on getting too emotional about it then that is going to detract."

The London-born 29-year-old cites his Edinburgh grandfather for starting him on a rowing journey that has taken him to multiple gold medal successes at world and European level.

"I started rowing aged 13 - I was quite small so unfortunately I didn’t have very much success for about four or five years," he revealed.

"I kept on plugging away, trying so hard, but I just wasn’t winning much and then I had a growth spurt aged 17 and I think all those years of losing definitely instilled that fight in me.

"Never did I think I would get to the Olympics, but here I am and just going to keep doing what I can."