Olympians visit Tideway Scullers School

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Olympians Alan Campbell, Iztok Cop and Mahe Drysdale were put on the spot by enthusiasts during a special forum at Tideway Scullers School (TSS) on 5th November.

Hosted by Olympian and coach Bill Barry, the evening gave the audience a rare chance to ask the athletes some serious and light hearted questions in a relaxed environment. There were even Olympians present in the audience; kayaking gold medallist Tim Brabants and Natasha Howard, a member of the GB women’s eight in Beijing.

Topics ranged from nutrition, training, split times on the erg and water through to the joy of the 24/7 food hall at the Olympics and which nation has the coolest female rowers. 

Slovenian Iztok Cop has competed in five Olympic Games, winning a gold in the double sculls at Sydney. He revealed a novel approach to winter training.

"I can’t stand the ergo and long distance training. I spend as much time as possible on cross country skis – it’s a good break from rowing," he said.

And what about pre-race rituals?

"I just basically lie around relaxing," said Mahe, who brought New Zealand a bronze in the men’s singles at Beijing. "I listen to all my favourite music – it varies from the Rolling Stones to Eminem. It’s not until about an hour before the race that I’ll start stretching."

The athletes discussed the importance of good management in helping to win an Olympic medal. Alan, a finalist in the men’s singles at Beijing, was seemingly the only one completely happy with his administrative support.

"We have excellent support in the Olympic team," he said. "Our management was absolutely brilliant this year. We stayed out of the Olympic village and everything was taken care of."

Despite being good friends, all three would rather race each other.

"I’m always eager to beat my friend rather than someone I don’t know because I can tease him afterwards!" smiled Iztok.

Mahe mentioned the importance of having the ‘"bragging rights" while Alan emphasised the "massive respect" they all have for each other.

And their hardest race?

"This year’s Olympics. Everything went wrong," said Iztok. "I just tried to finish the race and disappear…"

For Mahe, "The most physically tough was the Olympic final. Normally I have three strokes to go when I’m gone but this time I had 20 strokes to go when I was completely gone."

Grabbing the chance for some top advice, one listener asked what it takes for a 23-year-old to make it in rowing.

"You should have a picture in your mind’s eye that you can do the extra training, work hard, pull weights when no one’s looking," said Alan. "You should have the inner strength and, as Iztok said, it’s important to have support. I owe TSS a lot for their support and then there’s Bill (Barry) and my parents. Although I’m in a single, it’s a very crowded boat – when I’m going down that course, all those people are with me."

Giving the coach’s point of view, Bill said, "You have to have the commitment to achieve your goal, you’ve got to have the determination and you have to trust yourself that you can push yourself and go that bit further. You have to trust in others, that they can support you to help you achieve your goal."

"I truly believe that anyone can get to the Olympics if they have the characteristics that we’ve talked about this evening."

Look out for a second Olympians Forum at TSS in the coming weeks. Visit http://www.tidewayscullers.com/ for forthcoming more details.

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