When we failed, then Covid struck


The start of something new and something pretty exciting. I had found myself beginning to fall out of love with the idea of the men’s 8. Years of struggle, poor results, and poor team chemistry had led to an 8 that had consistently under performed from 2015 through to this point, but some salvation seemed to be in sight with the formation of the 2019 crew. Exciting new additions saw the inclusion of both Hamish Bond and Mahe Drysdale to our crew, two of my rowing idols and house hold names. There was a buzz about this new 8 we had put together and the names that were heading it.

However it became quickly apparent that the 8 was a completely different beast to the pair or the single of which Hamish and Mahe were far more familiar with. As in previous years, the 2019 8 struggled to create a clear picture of how to make a men’s 8 go fast and we ran into the all too familiar problem of too many chiefs, not enough Indians. This 2019 8 had all the raw ingredients to produce performances that would be competitive with the dominant nations such as Germany, GB and the Dutch, but our consistency was lacking. 

The international season saw mixed results, with a fantastic win in the Henley Royal Regatta, followed by some more mediocre performances in the World Cup events. Ultimately this season culminated in a devastating result at the 2019 World Champs where we finished in 6th place, and missed out on automatic Olympic qualification by 0.5 of a second. At this point, the pathway to my second Olympic Games seemed like an impossibility. This result meant that our only option was the infamous Last Chance Qualifying Regatta, or “Regatta of Death” which is held 6 weeks before the Olympics in Switzerland. This regatta is nicknamed the “Regatta of Death” for good reason, it’s brutally cut throat with only 1 or 2 crews from each event earning qualification. I’ve heard stories of the pure intensity and desperation seen at these events to earn the elusive Olympic qualification, and now I was having to compete there myself. The thought was making me sick to my stomach.


After the crushing defeat of 2019, I believe we all went home wondering whether this was all worth it, whether we had the motivation, the ability, the speed to get this damn boat qualified and represent NZ in the Olympics. Everyone was aware that this was the hardest route to the Olympics, and our physiologists warned us that this is not ideal as our bodies will struggle when peaking for two pinnacle events 6 weeks apart. Our crew was named with a few notable changes including the absence of Mahe Drysdale who had jumped ship back to the single. We began building momentum in the newly selected 8 with all of our focus on qualification.

We go out of our way to prepare ourselves for all eventualities as rowers. We train and prepare in all conditions and environments imaginable as you never know what curve balls will be thrown come race day, but none of us were prepared for world wide pandemic to slam the breaks on all of our hopes. Now everything was up in the air. After an extended period of speculation we ended up getting tentative confirmation that the Olympics was postponed till 2021, devastating. And to be honest we weren’t totally confident it would happen then either, nobody knew how bad Covid could hit the world. Understandably sport took a back seat.

In the dark, damp of my garage, I continued to train. At this point I didn't even feel motivated, but years of being a rower and being surrounded by exceptionally inspiring and insane athletes had rubbed off on me, and if nothing else, had turned me into a disciplined creature of habit. During our lockdown period, the whole team went through a huge range of emotions knowing that the goal posts had been shifted. Our goal was now 1 year further away… Maybe... We still didn’t even know for sure the Olympics could happen then! But what can you do? Of course we could have stopped and moved on with our lives, some of us did, or we could just knuckle down and continue. I jumped between both these options like an indecisive flea, but ultimately settled on this thought ‘well i’ve come this far, I owe it to myself to see this damn this out’. And so the Olympic season began with a fresh set of challenges.


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