Crossing the line first at our final Olympic trials a couple of weeks ago brings a tidal wave of relief. To win brings as much certainty as it’s possible to have of Olympic selection in the GB rowing team, and a place in a boat on the start line in Rio.
I talk loosely about certainty because nothing is certain: in sport, in rowing, and especially within our team. We have strength in depth like we’ve never had before in the lead-up to an Olympics, and there is no shortage of people wanting to step into my seat. There are plenty who would do a very good job there, too. The relentlessness of the day job continues.
No sooner had we crossed that line than attentions turned to the real opposition – and the reason I’m in this sport. I’m selected in the coxless four – a boat I’m happy to be in. It’s not just the boat in which I won gold at London 2012, but also that in which Great Britain emerged victorious at the three Olympics before that.
Way back in 2000, before I had ever held an oar, Sir Steve Redgrave won his momentous fifth gold in the coxless four. Sir Matthew Pinsent won his fourth gold on the warm waters of Athens in 2004, and in Beijing four years after that Team GB snatched gold from an Australian grasp. Three of the guys I would later race with in London were in that boat.
With every win, the pressure and expectation rises; we have put a stamp on this event, and we don’t want to break this growing tradition. I know the three guys I’m rowing with can soak up, relish and use that pressure to their advantage; I’m proud to be named in a boat with them. We want to keep hold of this event and fulfil the high expectations of the British public.
Our first test will be at the European Championships next week. It’s the primary stepping stone on the way to the Olympics, and an important gauge of early boat speed. Without wanting to jinx it, the start we’ve had is encouraging – and as a veteran in this boat class, I should know what I’m doing.
Rowing is all about moulding a crew together in movement and mind, and we have started in a good way. We’ll be put to the test from the word go, but I’m excited about sitting with my three mates on that start line. These are the guys who, in the months to come, I’ll do anything for. We’ll sweat, bleed and cry together, all for one six-minute race in Brazil. The season has begun, the Olympics are close. We’re on the way to Rio.
Read this column and more: http://www.sport-magazine.co.uk/features/alex-gregory-0