With all the testing and trialling finally over, team announcement day is an important one in our seasonal calendar and this year it was eagerly anticipated by the whole team. In the week leading up to the announcement we were confirmed in our seats by Jürgen, the head coach, but this was to remain within the team and our daily training sessions continued. Despite athletes and coaches knowing the boat selections, announcing the crews publicly is an important marker in our preparation.
We all expected the usual close-knit crowd of rowing journalists from various papers and TV channels, but were met with a huge wall of cameras and interviewers from all sorts of news and sports stations. This was when the importance and interest of this special year really hit home. GB rowing had organised a ‘row past’ with a bank-side commentary projected through a megaphone (yes, professional outfit here) by the team manager in an attempt to surprise and excite the press with the crew line-ups. However, this plan was slightly scuppered when The Times reported a complete and accurate team list the day before this public announcement. There are spies everywhere!
I was confirmed as a member of the coxless four along with Andy Triggs-Hodge, Pete Reed and Tom James, who were all Olympic champions in the same event from Beijing 2008. Only Tom joins me from our successful World Championship crew of 2011 with the final line up moving over from the pairs event. It was an extremely proud day for me, I can finally say I am in the coxless four for the 2012 season and, illness or injury dependant, will be racing in the four for London’s Olympic Games. It is the boat I have specifically been working towards for the last four years but, truthfully, it’s been ever since I first made the decision that rowing was the sport I wanted to pursue professionally. It is the same boat that holds awe-inspiring records for my predecessors, including Sir Steve Redgrave who won his fifth and final gold medal in the four, Matthew Pinsent his third and James Cracknell his second. The history involved in the British coxless four is vast and I feel privileged to be a part of that. On this day it felt I had achieved the first major goal for the year, but the main objective is far bigger and infinitely more important. For me, the crew announcement for the 2012 season officially marked the day when I could say I have well and truly set my sight on Olympic gold.
Immediately we are seen and spoken about as the men’s lead boat, we are Jürgen’s crew and without question we are expected to win. This is just the start of the pressure we are to feel in the coming months and it is sure to build daily right up to the Olympic final. It is piled on us simply because of the boat class and the heritage that comes with it. I must relish and use this pressure and expectation as it indicates that I’m in a far higher position in the rowing world than I have ever been before. It is exactly the position I want to be in.
We leave a few days after the team announcement for our pre World-Cup training camp in Varese Italy. Here, for the first time, we will come together properly as the coxless four and start to work towards our first stage of the Olympic preparation. We have three World Cup events to prepare for – Belgrade, Lucerne and Munich – all testers and warm ups for the big event later in the summer at Dorney. I am so excited to start, get on the water and get that boat moving fast!