This is the first time the Great Britain team have sent a full blooded senior squad to the European Championships. This may be due to the event being held after the World Championships previously, when athletes would rather be taking advantage of their rest and recovery period (much-needed after a tough year of training, seven days a week, come rain or shine!) I have competed at the Championships twice before, first in the 2011 in the coxless fours, finishing seventh with my victorious Henley Royal Visitor’s crewmates: twins Scott and Mason Durant and good friend and Boat Race winner Fred Gill. Secondly, in 2012 I raced in a pair with my U23 World Champion partner-in-crime, Kieren Emery, finishing a respectable fourth.
The 2014 European Championships took place in Serbia. The venue was good, conditions fair and weather on our side - although it did seem to be infested with mosquitoes. Our boat had a hard fight to the bronze medal, only millimetres ahead of the Polish. Umpires scrutinised a photo-finish as we passed over the finish line, making sure of the result before it was announced minutes later on the BBC for home viewers. We had not been constructed as a crew very long before racing, so had needed to make the most of the little time together to gel quickly and produce speeds that might contend for a medal. With that in mind, as the race drew to an end, I felt a real connection with my fellow crew mates. We all understood what we had to do and knew how to go about achieving it. I felt complete trust in the capabilities of those sat behind me and knew that if it came down to it- as it did- that they would be with me, putting everything on the line to scrape out an inch.
On the start line of an event full of unknowns, in a new crew you have no idea what to expect. You sit and wait for the crews to be announced and the starters orders to begin ready to be let loose down the course and find out where you stand against your competition and whether the training you have put in, up to that point, would make for an easy race or the hardest of your career. Our heat consisted of Poland, Belarus, France and Spain and finished with Poland and Belarus ahead of us. Also in the other heat based on time we also had Russia and Germany ahead of us, not the best result to start our campaign! The feeling I felt after this race was very similar as when I last found myself in a rep back in Lucerne. I was left wondering if we were fast enough to even make the medals and I could see it on some of the guys faces that they too were thinking the same as me. Once I got back to the hotel and thought over what went on before, during and after the race, I found myself thinking back to Lucerne and what I had learnt about pushing on and using every race as a new opportunity to step forward and achieve new goals. As I said in my Lucerne blog, this is one of my most valuable lessons and straight away my mindset changed. I decided this was not the end and the following day was all able producing another result and making the A final, once that had been achieved, and only once that had been achieved, I would then focus my intentions on getting to the medal podium. The following day we achieved our first goal which was to make the A final, this was pretty easy going as it was first two through and the race was always between ourselves and Russia, the big test was now set to take place the following afternoon.
The A final was a standard 6 lane affair and consisted of Germany, Russia, Poland, France, Belarus and obviously ourselves. We all knew what we had to do and you could really feel the excitement and passion amongst the crew as we boated. The warm up was spot on and the boat had a real buzz about it that you couldn't help but feed off. I remember sitting on the start line and feeling so pumped and ready that I was trying to calm myself down, control my breathing and re- focus on the challenge that awaited me. Needless to say as the start orders were given and the green light shown it felt as if a pack of wolves had been let off the leash and an explosion of raw power and aggression was unleashed! I remember the start was a big step on from the rep and this positive progression continued down the course. Moving through 500m we found ourselves level with Poland who two days previously had a length advantage over us and through the 1000m pushing on to the last 500m we began to move through Poland into third place. This sparked a private war between ourselves and Poland and to this day became one of my most painful experiences (not counting ergos!) of my career. I had complete faith in what my Cox Phelan Hill was shouting and from what I could make out it was turning into a pretty close race between the two of us. When we crossed the line my body instantly filled with lactate and it felt as if my extremities had been pumped with concrete! It turned out that the race was so tight it went to a photo finish, all crews were sat just past the finish line waiting and praying for a positive result but, as we couldn't see the large TV screens displaying times, we had no idea what the result was. An umpire on a launch reached for his mega phone and started to call out “Germany please make your way to the medal pontoon. Russia please make your way to the medal pontoon,” a few seconds later which felt like a life time, “Great Britain, please make your way to the medal pontoon!” the second I heard the G of Great I was overcome with joy and excitement, the entire boat erupted with cheers and and you could feel a sense of “job done” amongst the crew. I am so proud of how we came together and rose to the occasion, each member of the crew deserved every part of that medal and that race will always stay with me.
In : Rowing