Nineteen weeks until the London Olympics. 125 days until we get another opportunity to compress four years (or, really, 17 years in my case) of training down to roughly six-and-a-half minutes. No timeouts, no substitutions, just one chance to get it right when it matters most.
Dave Calder (my partner in the coxless pair) and I will be going up against a formidable pair from New Zealand - they haven't lost a race in the last three years. The setup feels very similar to four years ago, when Dave and I jumped in the pair together just five months before the Beijing Olympics and took on the ominous task of dethroning two pairs (one from Australia, the other a different New Zealand pair) that hadn't been touched for three years. We took the silver medal behind the Australian pair of Drew Ginn and Duncan Free.
It wasn't easy, but I wouldn't have it any other way. For me, the Olympics is about lining up against the best in the world and doing everything you can to come out on top. Not choosing events where you have the best chance to win, but rather seeking out the best opponents and racing them. After New Zealand, our toughest competition in London will likely come from Italy, Greece, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, and Australia.Out of retirement
Four years ago, Dave and I were able to produce our best race when it mattered most, and while we fell short of our ultimate goal of winning a gold medal, we went toe-to-toe with two legends in the sport of rowing and won Canada's first medal of the Games.
We both "retired" after Beijing, only to find that the competitive fire was still there and that nothing else came close to quenching it. After returning to the team 14 months ago and gradually working back up to speed, we won bronze at the main pre-season regatta but then had a disappointing race to finish fifth at the world championships last summer.
The positive was that we qualified a boat for Canada at the 2012 Olympics, though at the time there was no guarantee we'd be the ones rowing it. But after we won at the Canadian Championships in November, we earned the right to dictate which boat we wanted to trial for this summer. We chose to stay in the pair to try to finish what we started four years ago.Sacrifice
I'm small for a heavyweight rower. Six-foot-two and 190 pounds pales in comparison to the six-foot-eight, 230-pound behemoths that we raced against in Beijing, and that difference has led many coaches to doubt or overlook me.
It's been incredibly frustrating, but it has also shaped me into a tenacious, hard-working athlete that refuses to back down or take no for an answer. I can be a difficult person/athlete to deal with sometimes because I've had to push hard to get my chances and I'm fanatical about taking care of the details. I'm hard on myself and expect everyone else involved in my Olympic journey to live up to the same standard, which can create some friction.
Lots of people, even some of those close to Dave and I, don't fully understand what the lifestyle demands of us. It's a privilege to be able to push myself every day and to pursue my Olympic dream, and I never forget that, but this isn't a 9-to-5 job. Or even a 7-to-6 job. It's a 24/7 lifestyle.
We train six hours a day, six days a week, and when I'm not training, I'm eating, sleeping, or getting treatment for an injury. Most weeks, training brings us to our knees by Wednesday, but we somehow figure out a way to survive the rest of the week. There are no long weekends or spring breaks. I've missed more weddings and parties than I can count. But I don't feel torn or guilty. It's my choice to do this and I love it.
Everything we do is to set ourselves up to have the best chance to win in London. Or, I guess I should say, to have our best possible race in London. That is what we can control.What's next
The goal is to win - no question about that - but all we can do is prepare ourselves mentally and physically to have our best race, and then have the resolve to be audacious in those decisive moments. That type of truly "Olympic" performance can lead to a gold medal, but not always.
In fact, I think that the two most inspiring races by a Canadian athlete in Beijing resulted in the athlete getting silver (more on this in a future blog). So the goal is to take care of what we can control and do everything we can to win. If we can do that, we'll be proud of our race.
The next four months will be filled with training camps and pre-season races - all designed to build momentum, confidence, and efficiency at race pace in the lead-up to the Olympics. Our only chance to compare ourselves to the rest of the world will be at the main World Cup regatta in Switzerland in late May.
Other than that, it will be all about internal focus and preparation, getting ready for those six-and-a-half minutes on August 3 in London.
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