The end the recent summer campaign didn’t quite align with my grand vision leading in. The feeling of not getting selected for the first international tour group was one of disappointment and emptiness. Now, a month on, I find myself in a reinvigorated environment with fresh prospectives and renewed motivation. This belief in my training and direction has me excited about the possibilities of the coming months.
Before the season even finished I was on a massive high. Laszlo Boats, Daniel Ormsby and myself finished our collaboration to produce a boat like none other the world has ever seen. We believe it couldn’t have better epitomised the projects goal of creating a rowing skiff that was more than a technological masterpiece, but a work of art. Don’t take it from me though, decide for yourself.
The whole NZ Summer Squad were put under the pump towards the end of season with training's like: 30km rows that left my hands covered in blisters, 138km bike rides that left my groin numb for hours, 90min ergs that made my heart feel tired, and weights sessions that left my muscles feeling like they’d be taken to with a cheese grater. My way of putting this work to good use was to chase our heavyweight counterparts down the course in the double at North Island Club Champs where Matt Dunham and I took home the bronze medal before placing fourth at the National Champs. All of the athletes that crossed the finish line ahead of us in these events were heavyweight rowers and all but one were later selected for the NZ Elite Team set to race at this seasons world cups.
These and other summer performances lead to an invitation to the National Selection trials, the feeling for which is aptly illustrated in this creative image produced by Laszlo Boats. If I were to try summarise the trials to an outsider, it’d be something along the lines of “five days of the most rigorous physiological and psychological testing you can imagine, where every single performance is pivotal”. The conclusion of the trials sees all of New Zealand’s best rowers gathered in a large room with Rowing New Zealand personnel and media as the selected athletes names announced. The omission of one’s name is heart-breaking. It’s the difference between elation and dismay; pride and shame; a secure future in the sport for another 6 months or complete uncertainty; being employed or unemployed; having an income or not; and all in the space of a ten minute announcement.
Don’t get me wrong, I knew what I was getting myself in for. What the life of an athlete encompasses. We were told from the outset that wee skinny lads would be held to the highest of standards with the positions for male lightweight rowers at the Olympics being reduced from only six, to two per nation. Such a change will see the competition, in what was two very competitive events, change to an extremely competitive singular event in the lightweight double. This being a key consideration, the selectors deemed our performances in the double to not be of the required standard, and to be honest, I don’t disagree with them. I trust the selectors and know that when they believe we’re producing speeds that are capable of achieving success, not just participate, then they’ll give us that opportunity. When I race internationally for New Zealand, I too want my performances to be of a standard that add to the legacy of the black row suit.
So this winter I’m committed to working my ass off in this beautiful country of ours, earn an invitation to trial when the current elites return from their World Cup tour in August, and hopefully join them on their World Championship tour to see if I can contribute to the incredibly high standard set by the worlds remaining lightweights. So while I see pictures of my previous teammates struggling under the European sun in nothing but a rowsuit, I’ll be wrapped in thermals and beanie to keep this dome warm. This is all going to take place at my old stomping ground, my second home, the Waikato Rowing Club. I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by a large group of extremely talented athletes in the exact same situation as myself. This fuels my excitement because I believe that one’s environment, the people that we surround ourselves with, are influential to our development. So.... bring on the winter!