YEARS of training, hoping and longing will come to a head when Wokingham rower Anna Watkins strives for an Olympic gold today (Friday).
Husband Oliver Watkins, 34, will be cheering on his wife, 29, and her Team GB rowing partner Katherine Grainger as they give it their all in women's double sculls.
Mr Watkins told the News: "The last eight years have all been building up to this." The rowers, currently World Champions, delighted fans at rowing venue Eton Dorney when they set a new Olympic best time on Monday as they qualified for the final.
They won their heat in six minutes 44.33 seconds, beating the previous record set by Germany in Barcelona 20 years ago by nearly five seconds.
Mr Watkins said he was "extremely nervous" before watching but said: "It was very exciting, the atmosphere at Dorney is by far the best of any rowing venue that I've ever been to. It was a great day out. The support from the home crowd was pretty unbelievable. There was an absolute wall of sound from either side." He said that the pair have been following a well-organised training programme, swapping the long distances they have covered previously for shorter ones to ensure they are full of energy for the finals.
Mr Watkins said: "I think they are in an excellent state of mind at the moment. While everybody around them will be getting very, very nervous, Anna and Katherine are able to turn those nerves into excitement and also use those nerves for a good purpose, to prepare. The final's going to be anything but a walkover but they are in an excellent state." Mrs Watkins took a bronze at the last Games in Beijing in 2008, and Ms Grainger is a three-time Olympic silver medallist hoping this year will yield the elusive gold.
The pair started rowing together in 2010, and are now unbeaten in 22 consecutive races.
Mrs Watkins said: "We could not be in a better place mentally, we know that we've got more and we know exactly how to get that out of ourselves. The final's what it's all about." The pair train at the Redgrave Pinsent Rowing Lake in Caversham, Reading, and Mrs Watkins is a member of Leander Club, in Henley. She started rowing aged 19 while studying natural sciences at Cambridge University, where she met Mr Watkins, then studying for a PhD in engineering and now an engineer for McLaren Racing, in Woking.
The couple moved to Wokingham in 2006.
In addition to her rowing commitments, Mrs Watkins is studying for a mathematics PhD at Reading University.
The race will be shown on BBC One at 12.10pm today (Friday).