Racing for selection - Mar 2012

With a pleasing second place result at trials, we now play the waiting game for head coach Jürgen to make the decision on the Olympic crews.

It was incredibly important to achieve the position we did in the final as in our heat we were narrowly beaten by a crew that we really needed to defeat. There was no panic or stress about the situation as we knew we could row better and gain crucial seconds by altering small parts of our race plan, so the important thing was to not allow the pressure to get to us. This can be difficult at times – it is incredible what my mind makes up in these stressful circumstances and my imagination runs wild. I had the next day’s final running round my head on a continuous loop with different outcomes each time: I would stop, we would capsize, we would be beaten by everyone, we would win by miles, I would escape from the hotel in the night and not turn up! But with this all going on, deep down I knew I had to be confident with what we could achieve and keep a level mind on what was actually going to happen. Lo and behold, the day of the final arrived and I hadn’t made an escape, so we were definitely going to have to race this!

Our race was scheduled last and eagerly anticipated as the competition is exceedingly tight in the men’s heavyweight team. There was no question my partner and I were going out to win – to do this we had to stay focused inside our own boat and not allow the others around us to distract. Everything went to plan, simplicity is the key in my rowing and there was nothing complicated about our technique or race plan. We were leading for much of the race but just allowed the eventual winners to push out ahead of us in the closing 400m. This was not something unexpected and that well-established crew had just a little more power in those closing stages. We held on to the second position and crossed the line with a huge sense of relief that we had coped with the pressure and put ourselves in a good position for our selection. Of course, there was disappointment at not winning – we are all in this sport to win – but that was not the sole motivation here and the winning must come later in the season against the other nations.

It was only on the warm-down loop when the blood started running freely back through my body that I noticed the crowds on the bank and the huge support that had turned up to watch us race, despite the lack of advertisement for the event. If this was an indication of the interest people have for rowing, the support at Olympics this summer is going to be extraordinary, so as I paddled back to the landing stage there were definitely a shiver of excitement for what is to come.

Alex GregoryComment