London Olympic Year
19 weeks until the London Olympics. 125 days until we get another opportunity to compress 4 years… or 17 years in my case… of training down into roughly 6 and a half minutes. No time-outs, no substitutions; one chance to get it right when it matters most.
We are up against a formidable pair from New Zealand – they haven’t lost a race in the last 3 years. It all feels very similar to 4 years ago when Dave Calder and I jumped in the pair together 5 months before Beijing and took on the ominous task of dethroning two pairs (Australia and a different NZ pair) that hadn’t been touched for three years.
I wouldn’t have it any other way. For me, the Olympics is about lining up against the best in the world and doing everything you can to come out on top. Not choosing events where you have the best chance to win, but rather seeking out the best and racing them. After New Zealand, our toughest competition will likely come from Italy, Greece, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, and Australia.
4 years ago Dave and I were able to produce our best race when it mattered most and while we fell short of our ultimate goal – to win – we went toe-to-toe with two legends in the sport of rowing and won Canada’s first medal of the Games. We both ‘retired’ after Beijing only to find that the competitive fire was still there and that nothing else came close to quenching it. After returning to the team 14 months ago and gradually working back up to speed we won Bronze at the main preseason regatta but then had a disappointing race to finish 5th at the World Championships last summer. The positive was that we qualified the boat for the Olympics - while not necessarily securing our seats for the Games, it means that Canada is able to send a pair to London. We then won the Canadian Championships in November, which gave us the ability to dictate which boat we wanted to trial for this summer. We chose to stay in the pair to try to finish what we started 4 years ago.
I’m small for a heavyweight rower. 6’2” and 190 pounds pales in comparison to the 6’8” 230 pound behemoths that we raced against in Beijing and that difference has led many coaches to doubt or overlook me. It has been incredibly frustrating, but it has also shaped me into the tenacious, hard working athlete that refuses to back down or take no for an answer. As a result, I can be a difficult person/athlete to deal with sometimes because I’ve had to push hard to get my chances and I’m fanatical about taking care of the details. I’m hard on myself and expect everyone else involved in my Olympic journey to live up to the same standard… which can create some friction.
Lots of people, even some of those close to Dave and I, don’t fully understand what the lifestyle demands of us. As focused as this life needs to be, it is a privilege to be able to push myself everyday and to pursue my Olympic dream and I never forget that. It isn’t a 9-5 job… or even a 7-6 job… it is a 24/7 lifestyle. We train 6 hours a day, 6 days a week and when I’m not training, I’m eating, sleeping, or getting treatment for an injury. Most weeks we are on our knees by Wednesday and somehow figure out a way to survive the rest of the week. There are no long weekends or spring breaks. I’ve missed more weddings and parties then I can count. I don’t feel torn or guilty. It’s my choice to do this and I love it.
Everything we do is to set ourselves up to have the best chance to win in London. Or I guess I should say, to have our best possible race in London. That is what we can control. The goal is to win - no question about that – but all we can do is prepare ourselves mentally and physically to have our best race and then have the resolve to be audacious in those decisive moments. That type of truly ‘Olympic’ performance can lead to the Gold, but not always. In fact, I think that the two most inspiring races by a Canadian athlete in Beijing resulted in the athlete winning the Silver (more on this in a future blog). So, the goal is to take care of what we can control and do everything we can to win. If we can do that we will be proud of our race.
The next four months will be filled with training camps and pre-season races – all designed to build momentum, confidence, and efficiency at race pace in the lead up to the Olympics. Our only chance to compare ourselves to the rest of the world will be at the main World Cup regatta in Switzerland in late May. Other than that it will be an internal focus and preparation all leading up to 6 and a half minutes on August 3rd.