It is the eve of our final selection trials and I am writing this in my hotel room, which is literally a stone’s throw from the Olympic rowing course I will (hopefully) be rowing on this summer. If I look out of the window and through the trees I can just see the lake on the other side of the river, so staying and racing here this weekend is really starting to bring home the reality of how close the Olympics are now. This trial is an extremely important event and gives the selectors the final ranking of the athletes so we can then be distributed into our relevant Olympic crews. The result here is not the sole decision maker as we are judged every day through training and previous trials events this year and factors are taken into consideration at the coach’s discretion but it is extremely important that I put in a good performance this weekend.
There is no doubt that I find the build-up to this trial’s more stressful and uncomfortable than any other time of the year. It is so easy to train and prepare to race against another nation; I don’t know the guys I race in the German team, I don’t know how fast the Australians are rowing and even if an Estonian told me how fast he was going in his boat I wouldn’t understand him, so it just isn’t even worth thinking about. That is something I cannot control. In contrast, when we spend two weeks in a lovely but small hotel in Portugal where we live, row, eat, row and socialise together, we get to know everything about each person there. We are the GB heavyweight men’s team but for this period it is each man for himself. We focus on our own boats, our own speed and what will make us go fastest. It is a very selfish pursuit and something I find very difficult to come to terms with. It comes down to racing against my mates, the guys I know everything about, how well they are all rowing and exactly how fast they all rowed that 1000m piece we did the other day. We are going into battle against each other for our Olympic seats and right now there are too many people for too few places. Once these trials are over and we are selected in our crews we are then expected to come together again as a team overnight, instantly bond, gel and prepare to take on the rest of the world.
There is no question as to which boat I want to get selected in for the Olympics. It is the same boat I have raced internationally for the last three years, the boat I have become comfortable and confident in, the boat I am currently World Champion in and the boat that we as Great Britain have won three successive Olympic gold medals in. The coxless four won gold in Sydney, Athens and again in Beijing and to bring home gold for the Great British public in London in that same boat class would be a dream come true and something that has never been done before. The strength of our team, however, is so great that any boat has an excellent chance of a medal and a very good chance of gold.
To get the performance I need this weekend I have to remain calm, relaxed and focused on the small things I can achieve at this time. I can’t look towards the coming months as the task is too great to achieve in one step, I must only look towards the things I can change today. So as I move towards the racing here at Dorney Lake I need to put the Olympics out of my mind and concentrate on the job in hand. There is no question I want everyone to do well, I want everyone to get the result they want because they are my friends and they are in my team, but for this weekend I want them all to finish behind me.