by John Cogan ARPS
“Is that who I think it is?” John Clarke listens whilst the young Paratrooper quizzes him about the young blond who holds the attention of five photographers. All he can do is affirm that this slip of a lass, this slight, svelte young woman with the bright blue eyes and long tresses is, indeed, Katherine Sarah Copeland MBE, known universally as Kat… the winner of the Women’s Lightweight Double Sculls at the 2012 London Olympics. Her partner then was Sophie Hosking. Who could forget Kat’s response when told they’d won? That was one of the highlights of the games.
On a dull day in September we stood on the banks of the Tees, by the Tees Rowing Club and enjoyed her company… Gold medal she might have but her youth and simple joy of being alive, the quizzical expressions that crossed her face and her willingness to stand, lean, run or whatever when asked made the morning.
Was she planning to go to Rio in 2016? She didn’t know… it depended on selecting the best at the time and there was a lot of competition. The Team GB success in 2012 had started an avalanche… Dr John and I had seen this phenomenon the previous Sunday when photographing Jessica Eddie, the Durham girl who has represented Team GB in the Women’s Eights (2014 European Championships – Silver, and member of the record-breaking women’s crew that won this year’s Head of the River) and who was mobbed by the youthful beginners at the Durham Amateur Rowing Club.
Eventually, Kat’s gold medal came out of the back pack and was held for prying lenses. A profound silence fell amongst as the medal was passed from hand to hand. Back to Kat and we can see: hands surprisingly only a little calloused by hours of rowing.
Polite, warm and full of such generosity… like so many of those we have met during the course of this project… she has to fly to another meeting. A water-sprite in faded blue jeans disappearing into the distance, leaving five photographers whose lives had been touched by her kindness.
A complete list of Portraits from the North East subjects can be found in The Story so Far on the About page of this website