A two-time Olympian, Watkins won a bronze medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics, and a gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics, both in the double sculls. She has also won four medals in the World Championships, winning gold in successive years, in 2010 and in 2011.
Watkins was born and raised in Leek, Staffordshire, where she attended Westwood College. She studied Natural Sciences at Newnham College, Cambridge, where she started rowing in 2001.
She took her first strokes with Newnham College Boat Club and was captain of lower boats and then secretary for the club. Watkins represents Leander Club in rowing events.
At Cambridge, her college crew were Head of the Cam in 2003, before she moved onto the World Class Start talent identification programme run by UK sport, and based at Rob Roy Boat Club. In 2004, she made her international debut, winning a gold medal in the Coxless IVs at the World Under 23 Regatta in Poznań, Poland with crewmates Natasha Page, Beth Rodford and Alison Knowles.
In 2005, Watkins made her senior international debut with the Women's Eight, achieving a fifth place at the World Championships in Gifu, Japan. She also won an Under 23 bronze medal at the World U23 Rowing Championships in Amsterdam.
In 2006, Watkins switched to sculling and began competing in the double scull, a boat class she has remained with since then. The World Championships in 2006 were on home water at Eton Dorney. Watkins partnered Annabel Vernon, and they came in fourth place, having won the World Cup series earlier that season.
For the next two years, Watkins's partner was Elise Laverick. In this combination, they won bronze medals at both the World Championships and at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The Olympic medal came after a difficult season battling with glandular fever, and at the time was the closest any British oarswoman had come to an Olympic gold with the three medal winning crews separated by 0.23 seconds.
In 2009, Watkins once more partnered Annabel Vernon and won a silver medal at the World Championships in Poznań, Poland.
In 2010, Watkins joined forces with Katherine Grainger for the first time. In their double scull they had an unbeaten season, culminating in their victory at the World Championships in New Zealand. They were named World Rowing Female Crew of the year and also "The Sunday Times Women's Sports Team of the Year" for 2010. Individually, Watkins became Champion of the Thames in the annual championships, the Wingfield Sculls.
In 2011, Watkins beat Grainger in the British Rowing Team trials. They joined forces again in the double scull and continued their unbeaten run, finishing the season with another World Championships gold. Watkins retained her title in the Wingfield Sculls, setting a new record time.
At the 2012 London Olympics, Watkins and Grainger broke the Olympic record in the semi-final of the double sculls. Subsequently, they won the final to take the gold medal.
Watkins was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours, for services to rowing.
In August 2015, six months after the birth of her second child, Watkins announced her intention to return to competition, and to target the 2016 Rio Olympics. Had she been successful, she would have been the first mother to represent Great Britain in rowing, and possibly the first woman to compete in consecutive Olympics whilst having two children in between.
In February 2016, she announced that she was pulling out of the British Olympic rowing programme for Rio 2016, citing her performance, saying "This is not a decision that I've taken lightly. I guess I would have always wondered about what might have been if I hadn't given it a go."
In September 2009, she married Oliver Watkins, a part-time rowing coach, who was studying for a PhD in engineering at Cambridge, where the couple met. The couple live in Wokingham, where Oliver works for the McLaren Formula One team as a suspension specialist. Anna announced in March 2013, that the couple were expecting their first child, due in September 2013. Anna gave birth to a boy which they named William James. Anna had a second child, another boy named Richard Dexter, in February 2015.
Anna holds a PhD in mathematics from the University of Reading. 2012 London – Gold, Women's Double Sculls
2008 Beijing – Bronze, Women's Double Sculls
2011 Bled – Gold, Double Scull
2010 Lake Karapiro – Gold, Double Scull
2009 Poznań – Silver, Double Scull
2007 Munich – Bronze, Double Scull
2006 Dorney Lake – 4th, Double Scull
2005 Gifu – 5th, Eight
2005 – Bronze, Coxless Pair
2004 – Gold, Coxless Four
2012 – 2nd, Single Scull
2011 – 1st, Single Scull