I’m writing this with one day left to go on our final camp before the Olympics. We have been in Portugal for the last 13 days, the first week of which was to cement the technical changes we made on the previous camp in Austria. We arrived in Portugal with an improved rhythm in the boat and using the beautiful flat water. Our aim has been to develop this even further as well as start to introduce speed work.
Before every training session, we as a crew discuss our aims and expectations for the session and the main aspects we want to take from previous outings into the next. We have planned almost to the metre everything we want to achieve even before putting the boat on the water and this has given us a strong focus for each and every stroke we take. Each day for the last five weeks has been not only physically tiring but mentally draining and we have reached new levels of organisation, focus and planning in what we do. It has been an intense period, my body and mind has felt the strain, we have had many ups, a few downs, but this process is something we have had to go through to give ourselves the best opportunity to take gold in little more than two weeks now.
In the last week the mileage on the water has dropped and the intensity has risen, with race pieces, bursts and starts put into the programme. Jurgen uses the same model of training programme this year as he has any other year leading into a big event. There are no surprises, nothing to shock us, nothing different. The programme has become something to rely on, something familiar and stable in our lives, the Olympics is just another race on a lake against the same crews, the difference being there will be a few more people watching!
We are cut off from the world on training camp, we have very little appreciation of the Olympic hype building and it is great to have the ability to concentrate so single-mindedly on the job we have to do. I have nevertheless started to feel the nerves creeping in, and with less than a week until the opening ceremony, I find my mind wanders. I ask myself questions about what’s going to happen? Are we fast enough? Have the changes we made been enough? How am I going to cope on the day with the nations expectations of a gold medal on my shoulders? These questions and thoughts will no doubt intensify once we get back home and the racing starts. I will have to suppress this pressure and expectation somehow and try to transfer it into something useful. It is a great honour to be racing for Great Britain in the Olympics with the country, family and friends all expecting and pinning their hopes on me and my crew getting gold, and this brings huge pressure. I am actually looking forward to trying to deal with these nerves and hopefully overcoming them and using them to my advantage.
I was sent a video a couple of days ago made by a friend of mine from school, it was a compilation of old school mates singing a good luck song to me. It came as a huge surprise as I have hardly spoken to any of the people in the video for 10 years or more since leaving school. It shocked me as I had no idea anyone cared about what I was doing or even really knew! It is impossible to explain how much motivation and drive this kind act has given me in the last few weeks leading up to the games, and it has highlighted how much a friend’s support means to someone aiming for something special. To everyone who has shown me support and to those people in the video I will forever be grateful.
With the final training session on foreign water of this Olympiad tomorrow morning, I feel that I will be able to land at Heathrow in my Team GB tracksuit and say that we, as a coxless four, have prepared ourselves the best we can for our Olympic racing. My aim is to leave Dorney Lake on the 4th August and whatever the result be able to look at myself and say I did everything I could.