New Zealand Men’s Elite Lightweight Double. It hasn’t really sunk in to be honest. I don’t think it will until Adam and I board the plane with the other non-qualified crews for Switzerland. In that moment the feeling will probably be a mix of “Holy crap, I better pull my pants up because this shit is real” and “Racing for the right to wear the fern at the Olympics, come at me!”
The team was named at the conclusion of the most intensive week of my life, National Selection Trails. To the rowers out there, how would you imagine such a week starting? Yup, a 2km erg test. Is there any other way? The rest of the week then consists of seat racing. The kicker is, you have no idea how many. Depending on the decisions of the selectors you may race each day in all of the sessions or may not get to raced at all. To top it off, you have no idea who you will be racing with or how many races you will be doing in the sessions. This means you have to treat any and all seat races as your last, because it may very well be. Now, consider all the elements that come into play in such a scenario. Yes the physical toll is definitely next level but what really rips your undies is the mental and emotional toll on top of it all. A week of analyzing your performance from your own perspective and the perspective of the selectors, wondering what they have in store for you. I would be lying if I said I did it perfectly but I find the best way of trying to deal with it all is to just not. Turn up, give it your damnedest, go home. Period.
My time was instead spent trying to convince myself that my body was “OK”. Well, right up until the final race. The reality sunk in. A titanic sized reality. Because I wasn't used to the filippi seats (we raced KIRS and Lazslo Boats over the summer) we used for the racing my coccyx (tail bone) was bruised to the point where it hurt to sit on a cushion; I developed a sty in my left eye which made blinking painful; My legs hurt to the point where I couldn’t sit or stand without bracing myself (imagine trying to go to the toilet); I very felt tired but spent most of the night staring at the ceiling unable to sleep; studying and working were both out of the question because my brain was AWOL to the point where decisions like 'what to eat?' became difficult, and I can assure you, that has never been an issue.
When my name was called at the team announcement on that final day, I couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear. Even better, I got named with none other than my high school crew mate and current Lightweight Single world champion, Adam Ling and Calvin Ferguson, coach of New Zealand's two London Olympic Medallists Doubles, as the coach. In that moment I achieved one of my childhood dreams. Fair to say I was pretty chuffed.
One aspect of the naming that I was not prepared for was the reaction of others. I received so many messages following the naming that it took me a week to get back to everyone. I can honestly say that of this whole adventure, having so many people backing me is one of the most fulfilling parts. To all of you I want to again say thank you so very much. You motivate me more than you know. The other reaction came from those who disagreed with the selection. It’s not hard to understand how someone could feel that way when you consider: last year I didn't even earn an invitation to the selection trials, this is my first time in an elite team and in the Olympic year, and there were some exceptional athletes that missed out. Having had time to consider different perspectives, I believe the best thing I can do is not to set about proving that I deserve this but rather do my best to prove that I am doing my best with this opportunity I have been given. The selectors do not make decisions lightly and I know with the amount of seat racing we did, this one was no different.
It has now been 7 weeks since the naming and the feeling is good, very good. I can tell you with great confidence that there is no chance we will turn up at the start line worried if we have put in enough hours. 7 weeks also means we are only 4 weeks from racing and 2 weeks from leaving the tarmac! The way I see it, we have 4 weeks to make the most of every session (opportunity) we have left before the most important racing of our lives to date.
The Final Qualification Regatta will run from the 22nd to the 24th of May in Lucerne, Switzerland. I will let you all know where you can keep up with the results in my next blog.