After growing up sharing a love of rowing with his twin brother, Brunswick’s Scott Durant found himself alone on the Olympic podium in Rio
At 28, Scott Durant joined Brunswick Group as a junior researcher, an entry-level position typically offered to recent college graduates.
But if Scott hadn’t spent his twenties climbing a corporate ladder, he had a solid alibi. “I’d spent the last 14 years rowing,” he says. And he had an Olympic gold medal to show for it, earned as part of the British Men’s Eight in Rio in 2016.
Reaching the podium in Rio was the culmination of a dream that had bordered on obsession. Yet when the moment arrived for Scott, something was missing – his identical twin brother, Mason. They had entered the sport together at age 14. At home each night they had talked about training and competing strategies. They had shared a tattered copy of the autobiography of Sir Matthew Pinsent, a British rower who won four Olympic gold medals. They went so far together that both earned a spot on the British national rowing team. Then a back injury ended Mason’s rowing career.“I always kind of thought that if I made it, we both would make it,” says Scott. Instead, he wound up going to Rio with the British Men’s Eight alone. “Naturally, I was very pleased for him,” Mason says.
The pursuit of an Olympic career is largely solitary, even in a team sport such as rowing and even among twins. Scott describes his 14 years of training as a relentless effort to close the gap between his performance and his potential. “There was always someone who was better than me,” he says. “I would rather try and beat my own personal bests than focus on beating others.”
When they started rowing, Scott and Mason didn’t stand out. “I was never particularly good at sports as a kid, wasn’t someone expected to win a gold medal at the Rio Olympics. As an underweight, frankly weak and fairly soft 14-year-old boy, I was below average in every respect and failed to make my school’s top boat in my first two years of the sport,” Scott says. “In my first national rowing competition at age 15, my team finished fourth from last, out of 50 crews.”
But the twins persevered. “When we were 16 or 17, we realized that the more we put into it, the more we got out of it,” says Mason.
“All I ever thought about was rowing,” Scott says. “During school lessons I would plan how I was going to structure my next 2,000-meter indoor rowing test. I would daydream about what it must be like to row for Great Britain. I barely allowed myself to think past the goal of making the national team. The Olympics? The British Men’s Eight had won only one Olympic gold medal since 1912.”
To Scott that obsession was a blessing. “I felt lucky that I knew exactly what I wanted, something many of my close peers are yet to resolve,” he says. “A big part of this dream was having short-term goals. I was constantly trying to increase the distance I could row in 20 minutes on the rowing machine.”
His second year at Oxford Brookes University, Scott made the first team, after placing only the third team in the first year.“In five years at Oxford Brookes, I obtained undergraduate and graduate degrees in town planning while training six days a week, once or twice a day, for an average of three hours a day. By the end, I had rowed in boats that had won a lot of races at a student level.”
Mason and Scott still shared the dream of making the national team. Even though they rowed for separate universities, they won first place together in a boat at the prestigious Henley Royal Regatta race in 2012. “That was quite a big win, and doing it together added an extra level,” says Scott.
In 2009, a back injury nearly ended Scott’s career, besieging him with spasms that rendered him immobile. Eighteen months of physical therapy convinced him to train his entire body, especially his core. “If all you do is row, along with strength training that targets muscles needed for rowing, your body falls out of balance,” he says.
After college graduation, the boys worked together at the Oxford Brookes University sports center and trained together. Eventually, both made the national team, which provided a cost-of-living stipend. But their greatest source of support was their mother, Diane Durant, a teaching assistant and learning mentor in a local primary school. Their father died when the boys were 9, after a long illness that had left him incapacitated. Their mother was left a widow.
“I saw a lot of people around me who weren’t as well supported as Scott and I, in terms of the emotional and financial support our mother provided,” Mason says. “They didn’t carry on rowing as long as Scott and I did. We were lucky to have that support.”
“I have always done my utmost to support all my boys in whatever they have been passionate about and set their minds to,” Diane says. “For Scott and Mason, this was their rowing. They trained together throughout their time at school, culminating in them winning the National Schools Championship in the pair and beginning to row for their country. It was at this point that they were interviewed for our local newspaper, stating that a dream for them both would be to row in the Olympics.”