Carla is the hero of SAS: Who Dares Wins 2020 - Olympic rowing to chemo treatment

SAS: Who Dares Wins is back for another gruelling, agonising and punishing series with twenty-five new recruits signed up to take on the toughest challenge on the telly.

This season, Channel 4 have roped in some of the toughest competitors to date. From CrossFit champs to thrill seekers, this season has it all.

However, one of the strongest recruits, in more ways than one, is former pro rower Carla Ashford.

Here’s everything you need to know about Carla, from her early beginnings in the sport to her journey to the Olympics and why she signed up to SAS: Who Dares Wins.

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Who is Carla?

Carla Ashford is a 40-year-old recruit for series 5 of SAS: Who Dares Wins. Carla is known as “recruit 15” on the show.

She was born on March 13th, 1979 in Northallerton but now lives and works in London as a business development manager.

But Carla has had a multifaceted career. Carla is also a mother of four children, a carer for her sister and has had a previous career as a professional rower!

Carla Ashford’s rowing career

In 1995, at the age of 16, Carla began her rowing career. She took it to the next levels when she was at Oxford Brookes University, competing on the university team.

Carla began to compete in international competitions, starting with the World Rowing Cup in 2003, when she was 24 years old.

According to her World Rowing profile, Carla has competed in fifteen major international events throughout her career.

Although Carla had great success at these events, the real highlight of her career came in 2008 when she was chosen for Team GB. Carla finished fifth in the women’s eight that summer at the Beijing Olympics.

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Carla’s chemotherapy journey

On paper, Carla is tremendously physically impressive. From her rowing career to the fact she said across the Atlantic in an 80ft ketch at the age of 21, Carla never holds back when it comes to pushing herself.

And that’s what happened once more when she was diagnosed with triple-negative invasive breast cancer in 2018. She commenced an intensive treatment plan in December 2018, which combined chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy.

Carla had sixteen sessions of chemotherapy from December 2018 until she started training for SAS: Who Dares Wins. While she was still in recovery from the treatment, Carla was picking up heavy-duty sports such as CrossFit and weightlifting… she’s a total hero!


It was while Carla was undergoing treatment that she was inspired to sign up to the show. She watched all of series 4 while she was in her chemotherapy sessions.

What did Carla say about SAS: Who Dares Wins?

After filming had concluded, Carla spoke to Channel 4 about her experience on the show and how she coped with the task post-cancer.

Carla said:

Post chemotherapy I was a broken soul, I had trained throughout chemo, but more to keep mentally alive than to make any physical gains…

From day one, the intensity hit me hard and my body took a real battering…but I relished the opportunity.  It felt like my old training days and I loved every minute. I found it incredibly physically demanding, but I loved the challenge.

Carla also described how the only thing she could compare the task to was her Olympic training – so, definitely not an easy feat!




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