When did you decide that Rio would be the last race for you?
I had to rethink my approach to rowing at a fundamental level when I had to take a year off due to glandular fever recurrence. I did this to manage my expectations about Rio, moving my sights towards something I could achieve, I had to come to terms with not making the Olympics. To do this I forgot about Rio and started to action plans about a life after rowing, to plan around what else there is in life. This process laid bare the road to a full retirement. The only question was when — was it 2015 or could I fluke a last Olympics. I guess I got lucky!
What did it mean for you to go out on top, with gold in the 8+?
That eight was an incredible boat. A mix of some of the best guys in the team. They all had great attitudes, and while not the fastest in trials, we produced the essence of what makes rowing great. Team Work. It’s one of the best displays I’ve seen in the sport and I’m incredibly proud to have been part of this crew. The way we executed the final in Rio was the cherry on the top. A beautiful race, overflowing with passion and grit, but wonderfully contained within a process we’d worked on day in day out, sold ourselves to and critically believed in. It was a dream.
I read your post on Facebook announcing your retirement and I looked up the Tideway Tunnel you said you would be working on; what will your role be in this big project? How did you first get involved with this work?
I studied environmental science and water management at university, which reflects an upbringing in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. And while I rower I’ve always had a to get back into this work. Tideway has given me this opportunity. My work here is focused and I have always had ambitions around creating something that will promote the benefits the tunnel brings to one of the most iconic rivers in the world. The tunnel will prevent millions of tons of untreated sewage entering the river each year. This will have a huge impact on the city and the way we interact this important part of our capital.
Your rowing career is remarkable, with three Olympic gold medals to your name. Was there a constant in your life or training that helped you succeed at the Olympics over and over again?
I always approached each session with the simple goal of being a little bit better, becoming an Olympic champion was never about being one. There are so many facets to rowing there is always something to work on. Achieving your best, in my opinion, doesn’t involve aiming for perfection, but just making what you do a little bit better, do this often enough and it’s surprising how good you can get. I believe it’s important to develop without the distracting pressure of the ‘result’ hanging over you. I think it’s why I’ve been able to enjoy the sport so much.
What’s the most unexpected thing that happened to you during your national team career–something that made you say, ‘Wow–I never thought that would happen.’?
I never thought I’d go to the Olympics when I was 21.
I never thought I’d become and Olympic champion when I was 24.
I never thought I’d know a good man at Cambridge.
For the rest, I’m too much of an optimist to worry about doubt.
To continue reading…
Register for free to get limited access to the best reporting available.
Free accounts can read one story a month without paying.
Or subscribe to get unlimited access to the best reporting available.
To learn about group subscriptions, click here.
Already a subscriber? Login