My last post was about the third World Cup in Lucerne. For this I should apologise, writing blogs is a lot harder and time consuming than I thought it would be and once you add a full day’s training into the equation it can end up taking even longer, for me at least!
The major event that followed the third World Cup of 2014 was of course the World Championships and by now I hope you already know the outcome. Winning my first Senior World Championship Gold will be a memory that will stay with me through out my career and the life that follows it after competitive sport. It was a great race with the Germans and after a turbulent season full of conflicting results this was no doubt an awesome outcome.
Now onto the beginning of the 2015 Season. What a year it has been. It started off great with an incredible trip to Brazil where we were given the chance to mingle with the locals, chat with the local rowing clubs and see some of the Olympic venues and accommodation. On returning from this adventure I came down with a “virus”, and a stubborn one at that. It is still unclear what was happening to me but for now and the foreseeable future that will remain its label. Hopefully it will not poke its head up again any time soon. I started to feel its effects during a weekend of testing. In simple terms I was a complete write-off within a few strokes of each race and the next day the decision to pull me out of testing was made for my own good and to maintain fairness amongst those still racing. That day I left the boat house not knowing that it would be three months before I could even think about stepping foot back into the gym to attempt some very light training.
Fast forward to January and we reach my first full day of training, it’s just a shame it happened to be the first day of our South Africa land camp! The camp was two weeks of hell. I was heavy, weak and very unfit. The camp consists of long bike rides followed by long ergos and a few weight sessions thrown in there for fun. If that didn’t paint a vivid picture of how this baptism of fire worked out for me I hope you get a warm fuzzy feeling in your belly and a cheeky smile on your face when I tell you that I always arrived home last on the bike rides, I finished every ergo last and I could hardly keep up on the weights programme. By some miracle I made it through the camp without skipping a session and as wrecked as I was when returning home I knew the benefits would be felt come the summer.
A week out with tendonitis was to be another small set back during our pre trials camp in Portugal. With this valuable time out of the boat Scott and I still produced a strong performance, finishing 5th. Trials was followed by tough seat racing when the decision was made that I go as a spare to the European Championships. Before the European Championships I competed in a coxless four with Oliver Cook, Callum McBrierty and Tom George. I had a lot of fun in this boat and learnt a lot from the guys’ chilled out approach to training and tough schoolboyish racing. We raced well at Essen Regatta finishing fourth on the Saturday and second on Sunday just one length shy of the Canadian four that went on to a fourth place finish at the World Championships.
At the second World Cup I was selected to race the coxless pair with Callum McBrierty. After just two weeks together we were on the start line with 2k of water ahead of us to figure out what race profile would suit us as a crew (to this day we still have no idea). We had a great time racing in the pair and faced some talented crews on the water in Italy. We raced the heat, repechage, semi and then final. It’s safe to say that each race was very different from the last. In our rep we had a very mature race, leading from start to finish over the Germans, who were two Olympic champions in the eight. In the semi we had a blisteringly fast last quarter which secured us a spot in the A final. In the final we turned the race plan on its head and went out of the start like a “bat out of hell” placing a time that would have equalled the world record set by the New Zealanders… Safe to say this shot of adrenaline was short lived and each marker we found ourselves falling further towards the back of the pack, finally finishing in 6th.
At the third World Cup Callum and I were given the honour of trying to tame the beast that is the coxed pair. Taking your first few strokes in a coxed pair is an eye opener. The best description I can think of for the coxed pair comes from Scott Durant and Alan Sinclair (2014 World Silver Medallists in the Coxed Pair). “It’s like rowing in a Coxless four, but as a pair while the two guys in the bow sit the boat” and they were right. There’s a reason why it’s called the lead sled!
After our first session in the beast we were on the start line and I made the rookie error of trying to race as if I was in a coxless pair. I filled my body with so much lactate acid with in the first few hundred metres that just finishing the race felt like pure triumph in itself! We won both our heat and final by a large margin and even so, in the final I remember the unadulterated pain I was going through in the final 250m. It felt as though every inch of my body was slowly turning to concrete with no sign of budging till the medal ceremony.
The day after arriving home from Lucerne I was once again struck by viral symptoms. As a result I was out of a boat for another two weeks and on reduced training for the first week of our pre worlds camp in Austria. Following signs of improved health and some boat swapping a lucky few of us underwent one last day of testing and two days of waiting on selection before it finally being announced that I would get a second chance to tame the coxed pair. I was accompanied on this quest with Nathaniel Reilly-O’Donnell (Noddy) and legendary cox Henry Fieldman. Coaching us would be the ever positive John West.
Noddy and I have been rowing together at most international events for the past three years including last year in the Eight and the Four in 2013. With formalities out of the way we began to find good speed with relative ease. For us the three weeks building up to the World Championships was all about simple changes focussing on increasing efficiency.
The World Championships were held in Aiguebelette, France, on a turquoise lake with crystal waters and a mountain running the length of the lake. We arrived with a clear goal: bring home The Gold. We didn't know much about our opposition but we knew we had a strong mental advantage because of our past successes. We took our confidence into the heat and opened out a healthy lead by the half-way marker, winning the race and moving straight into the final, skipping the rep. The morning of the final I was in a state of nerves. I knew we could win, the only thing that could jeopardise the outcome was myself. I found myself going through all the what-ifs until I finally gave myself a mental slap around the face and trusted in my own abilities. The final went as we planned with all the boats who showed early speed pushing hard to half way. In the second half we broke clear of the field and as the line moved closer we stretched away from the other crews, crossing the line with a six second win. The realisation that I had just won the World Championships for the second time and secured my fourth World’s title didn’t sink in until I was on the podium listening to my national anthem with the Gold around my neck.
You can find the all the results at: http://www.worldrowing.com/events/2015-world-rowing-championships//schedule-results
You can also view the final race here: http://www.worldrowing.com/photos-videos/racevideos/