KAT Copeland's sudden rise to prominence might have been a surprise to many, but fellow North-East rower Jess Eddie claims she has long been the hidden diamond of the British team.

Copeland teamed up with Sophie Hosking to claim an Olympic gold medal in the lightweight double sculls at the weekend, even though it is less than 12 months since she made the step up from the under-23 ranks.

The pair won British Rowing's winter trials to claim an Olympic place, but one third-placed finish from this summer's three World Cup events hardly suggested that a gold medal was in the offing.

Away from public view though, rapid progress was being made. And when Copeland and Hosking lined up for their opening heat last Sunday, a race that would see them set a new Olympic best time, their fellow team-mates had a pretty good idea of what would follow.

“I knew exactly what was coming,” said Eddie, who finished fifth in the final of the women's eight on Thursday. “There are no secrets when you're part of a team. All the way through the summer, I've wanted to scream and shout to tell everyone how good these two girls are. But that wouldn't have been fair. Now, I don't have to worry about screaming and shouting because everyone has seen for themselves.

“We train as a team, so we chop and change boats, and when you train with people three times a day for four years, you get to know exactly what they're capable of. We knew what Kat and Sophie could do from a pretty early stage.”

In rowing terms, the pair are the ideal mix of strength and skill. Copeland, who only secured her place on the Olympic team this spring, is regarded as one of the most technically-gifted scullers on the British team.

Hosking, who is five years older at 26, is a much more powerful performer and also boasts experience of previous international competitions in the double sculls.

Together, they have formed a dream partnership that could well remain intact throughout the next Olympic cycle to Rio.

“I actually know Sophie much better than Kat because she's one of my best mates,” said Eddie. “She is unbelievably hard. She's small, but we go on cycling camps and I'm exhausted after a six-hour ride, and she'll still be pushing on. I'll want to cry, and she'll be crying out for more.

“To have that as part of a crew is unbelievable, and then Kat has come along and complemented it perfectly. She's clearly very, very talented and the relationship has just worked.

“We get comparisons of how we're doing in our training compared to the world-record time, and from the moment they've come together, they've just been smashing it in.”

Like Eddie, Copeland is proud of her North-East roots, and in her first post-victory interview on Saturday, the Teessider made a point of thanking Tees Rowing Club and the supporters who had watched her race on a giant screen in Middlesbrough.

With the likes of Keiren Emery, Nathaniel Reilly-O'Donnell and Rachel Gamble-Flint expected to be challenging for a place in the 2016 Games, North-East rowing has arguably never been stronger.

Copeland's Olympic success will hopefully inspire a new generation to take up rowing, a sport Eddie insists has made giant strides in an attempt to shake off its upper-class tag.

“I don't know what it is about being from the North-East, but we feel an affinity to each other that I just don't think you get elsewhere,” said Eddie, who screamed herself hoarse as she cheered on Copeland and Hosking from the stands at Eton Dorney. “We had our own opening ceremony the other day because we couldn't attend the stadium, and we made sure we sorted out our own North-East picture with me, Matt (Wells) and Kat.

“We're proud of where we're from, and people can always tell where we're from because of our accents. I've only known Kat for a couple of years, but we've definitely bonded strongly because we're from the same place.

“I've been rowing for the North-East for a long time, and it's absolutely amazing that we've finally got a gold medal for the region. In a sport that people think is so elitist and so posh, we've proved it can be done.

“It's just sport. Yes, there are posh people in it. But there are people from all kinds of backgrounds in it as well. Kat's just proved what is possible if you work hard enough and put your mind to it.”