On the four-year anniversary of her golden final in Rio, Paralympic Champion and four-time World Champion Grace Clough MBE has announced her retirement from international rowing
Since joining the GB para squad in 2013, Grace has been an integral member of the PR3 mixed coxed four. She became Paralympic Champion at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and received an MBE in the New Year’s Honours that year.
“The highlight of my rowing career has to be that golden day in Rio where GB won a medal in every boat class,” Grace says. “It was an incredible feeling to be part of such a dominant team of athletes and support staff, with everyone working towards one goal and it all coming together on the day. We had so many friends and family there and just seeing everyone so happy and celebrating the achievement felt amazing.”
Grace was originally spotted at a ParalympicsGB Talent ID event and nurtured through her first strokes in the sport by Dez Atkins and Nottingham Rowing Club.
She joined the GB squad in 2013 and, after the traditional Para Rowing introduction to racing in Gavirate, won her first World Cup in Aiguebelette in 2014. This was swiftly followed by a maiden World Title win in Amsterdam later that summer.
The 2014 season marked the start of an unbeaten international rowing career in which Grace went on to claim a further World Cup win in Varese 2015 and three further World Championship victories in Aiguebelette 2015, Sarasota 2017 and Plovdiv 2018.
Amidst all of her successes Grace also racked up World bests on the ergo (Feb 2015) and over both on-water race distances (1000m in 2015, 2000m in 2017), not to mention a degree from Oxford.
“I’ve had an incredible journey – from coming into rowing as someone who had no idea which way to sit in a boat to becoming Paralympic champion in two and a half years.
“I have to give a special thanks to Tom Dyson for his patience in teaching me how to row. If it wasn’t for the support team around me, especially Tom, I would never have won anything let alone become Paralympic champion.
“I step away from the sport having achieved more than I ever thought possible, thanks to the funding, support staff and GB setup which enables people to achieve incredible things.”
Grace is returning to university to train as a secondary school PE teacher, where lucky classes of children in Sheffield will be able to be taught by a Paralympic champion.
“I’m hoping I can use my experiences to show the importance of staying involved in sport and staying active after leaving school. Physical activity has huge mental and physical benefits and allows you to challenge yourself personally every day.”
Paralympic Chief Coach Tom Dyson paid tribute to Grace, saying: “I want to thank Grace for everything she has brought to the squad over the years and to wish her every success as she embarks on a new career in teaching. Her future pupils are extremely lucky to have her.”