After four years of representing New Zealand in rowing on the world stage, a position that I have long committed my life too, the feeling of producing a performance I am proud of is truly like no other. Standing on the podium with the silver fern on my chest has long been a dream of mine, but to do it in a way that proved I have far from reached my potential was what made the moment really significant. I am excited to see our elites’ do the same in a few weeks, and for the announcing of the summer national team following that, revealing what my future will hold.
My first international competitions, Tran-Tasman events in the NZ U21 team in 2009-2011, produced some pretty decent results going undefeated in 2010 & 2011. However, the three world competitions following that (U23’s 2012, World Uni’s 2013 & U23’s 2014) I fell short of the goals I set for myself and likely those of the selectors. These performances combined with performances that didn’t exactly light the world on fire at our National Champs had the national rowing selectors saying five months ago that they believed “I had reached my potential”. Listening to this wasn’t exactly music to the ears and made a fair dent in the old confidence. In deciding whether to accept that as my fate, it was looking back at the performances I would put down and back up day after day in training, plus the speed I have produced in mid-season racing that gave me the faith that I had a lot more to give to this sport yet. I just had to learn how to make the magic happen when I counted.
Well turns out the work I have been doing with the mind doctor has made a big difference in unlocking that magic. If you’ve watched my race (Youtube version here) you will have seen the Hungarian sculler had over 3 lengths on me heading into the last 500m. In rowing just having a single length is a big lead and potentially enough to have made me ‘break’ in the past. The difference this time was that I wasn’t just aware but had also accepted that whatever was going on in the lanes either side of me, it only had the power to influence my performance if I let it. The experience of the whole regatta had me come away with a profound lesson that I have heard a number of times but only now been able to accept as I have been so caught up in personal mind games. The lesson: bar underperforming (which I have done my fair share of), the result of a race is decided before we even reach the starting gates. When executing our best performance (racing) our training enables us to hit that speed while also restricting us at it. Those who are game, go faster….before their legs seize up with lactate in the third 500m (The greatest fear of any rower).
I will always remember the time when my physiologist told me that the amount of lactate we produce in a race would be fatal to the average male. Well following the race my body didn’t hesitate in informing me of its discomfort and as a result I wasn’t very ‘present’ for the following ceremony. Halfway through, I mistook our que to turn towards the flags as the end and had to be summoned back during the anthem after walking off in a daze. One thing I do remember, despite the overwhelming pain, was the reverberating “kiwi” chant as I accelerated toward the line and the deafening cheer once I reached ‘home’. Now when I reflect the two feelings that will resonate with me over all else is, one: performing in a manner that I am proud of, and two: hearing so many people from all over the world genuinely eager to see me succeed.
Following the racing I was extremely fortunate to get the opportunity to support the rest of the New Zealand team still to compete in swimming and athletics as they claimed NZ’s 4 other medals of the games. From there Josh, Adelle (fellow rowers), Adelle’s sister Keisha and I spent one and a half weeks in Japan experiencing the culture before heading home to NZ. We scaled Mount Fuji in less than 5 hours (up and down); explored the bustling city of Tokyo including the busiest intersection in the world (the number of daily pedestrians is more than NZ’s population), and releasing my inner child at Disneyland. However the best part of the trip was joining a couple of rowing teams to do a bit of ‘collaborating’. We spend countless hours, day after day, rowing in the same place with the same group of people, I find it really stimulating to not only throw down on new waters with new people but to also deliberate over the different concepts that surround this passion that unites us.
Where to from here? I wait in great anticipation to support our elite team as they attempt to defend NZ’s title of being the most successful rowing nation at the 2015 World Rowing Championship in Aiguebelette, France from 30th Aug to the 6th Sep. Following that on 14th Sep is the naming of the NZ Summer Rowing Team (aka Summer Squad) from which the 2016 Rio Olympic Team will likely almost all be selected. My selection for this team will be dependent on the selector’s assessment of the case I have put forward over the winter (Squad pieces, winter series, World University Games). Until then I am spending a lot of time in the gym, on the bike, and on the Concept 2 rowing machine, building back the fitness and strength base that suffers when we go through the peaking phase in the build up to competition. I am also going to be spending a bit of time in an eight with the Gallagher corporate rowing team as we prepare to defend their title in the corporate event at this year’s Gallagher Great Race. Out of boat I have just had the honour of being selected to join the committee of my second home, the Waikato Rowing Club. I have an immense amount of passion and pride for this club so the opportunity to guide it in retaining its title of NZ’s best rowing club, both on and off the water, has me very excited.
To all my family, friends and sponsors, cheers you good buggers. As always, please let me know if you are in the Waikato area. Bring on the Summer!