Team England has appointed former rowing star Sarah Winckless MBE, as its Chef de Mission for the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas.

The 42-year-old, who twice won gold at the World Rowing Championships and claimed a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, will lead Team England to the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

The 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow was the most successful ever for Team England, with a total of 174 medals lifting England to the top of the medal table. Winckless has previously held the position of UK Chef de Mission for the Youth Olympic Games and served as the inaugural Chairman of the BOA’s Athletes Commission. She was the first woman to be appointed as a Boat Race umpire.

In 2015, she was awarded an MBE in The Queen's Birthday Honours for ‘services to sport and young people’.

Accountable to CEO Paul Blanchard, Winckless will work alongside the existing Commonwealth Games England team and additional Games Delivery staff to provide leadership and direction to Team England before, during and post the 2018 Games. The Chef de Mission has overall accountability for all team members during the Games.

Sarah Winckless, Chef de Mission for Commonwealth Games England, said:

“I am delighted to accept this exciting opportunity and lead England at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Having been an international athlete, I understand what is needed to allow athletes to perform at their best at major events and I am looking forward to working with CGE to ensure that we are as best prepared as we possibly can be.

“The Commonwealth Games can be the first major, global multi-sport competition where young athletes have the chance to represent their country at a senior level so it is vital that Team England athletes are fully prepared to perform at elite levels in 2018.

“The Youth Games in the Bahamas in 2017 is an exciting opportunity for our rising stars. Many Commonwealth and Olympic stars began their multi-sport careers at the Youth Games; it’s a great learning experience.

“Team England is a fantastic representation of modern England. We are proud to have a team that is diverse, inclusive and demonstrative of England in 2016. With the new para-programme at The Gold Coast Games including an increase of 45% more athletes and 73% more medals compared to the record-breaking para-sport competition at Glasgow 2014, we will have the chance to be even more inclusive of England’s hugely talented and inspirational para-athletes.

“Team England’s unique combination of 18 sports combines athletes from a cross-section of demographic groups, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds and geographies – and we will support them all, equally.”

Paul Blanchard, Chief Executive of Commonwealth Games England said:

“We are very pleased to announce Sarah Winckless as our Chef de Mission for the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Topping the kind of performance Team England delivered in Glasgow is a tough challenge but with Sarah’s leadership, CGE is confident we will be able to try and build on this success and continue to grow as a leading English sporting organisation.

“Sarah’s experience, knowledge and skills mean that she is the right appointment for Team England. We are dedicated to supporting the development of the next generation of English athletes. Sarah shares that ambition with us, and in particular our President Denise Lewis.”

The Gold Coast Games in 2018 will be a chance for Team England to follow on from the challenge of finishing top of the medal charts at Glasgow 2014 but is fully focused on ensuring that it sends the best prepared team to the Gold Coast. 

Team England would like to thanks Grange Hotels for their help in accomodating our interview with Sarah and the Sunday Times at the Grange St Paul's Hotel in London.

Photography by Sunday Times.