Athlete in the Spotlight: Matt Gotrel
GB Rowing Team news caught up recently with Matt Gotrel in the latest of our series of spotlight features on squad members. We’ll be adding more regularly so look out for future editions. Tweet us via @GBRowingTeam if there is an athlete you would like to see featured.
Hometown: Chipping Campden
Education: Loughborough University
Began rowing in: 2009
Clubs: Loughborough Students’ Rowing Club, Nottingham Rowing Club/Start
Original coach(es): Julie Edwards, Dan Johnson, Dan Moore
When he helped the men’s eight win World Championship gold for the GB Rowing Team last year, it capped an impressive international sporting transition for Matt Gotrel.
Having been part of the British Sailing team for two years, Matt decided to give rowing a try when he went to Loughborough University in 2009 – and quickly proved to be a natural.
Within 12 months he had moved onto the GB Rowing Team’s Start programme in Nottingham and in 2012 was selected for the European Championships, the same year he helped Loughborough top the table at the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Regatta.
Matt also won the Wyfold Challenge Cup with Nottingham RC at the Henley Royal Regatta before breaking into the GB Rowing Team World Cup squad in 2013, winning gold with the men’s eight on his debut in Sydney.
He had to make do with a reserve place at that year’s World Championships in Chungju, Korea, but he was back in the eight which won bronze at the 2014 European Championships.
Matt won a World Cup medal of a similar colour in the men’s pair with Paul Bennett in Aiguebelette before both returned to the eight for the World Championships, where Britain claimed a convincing victory in the final.
Ahead of a big season on the road to Rio, we caught up with Matt to chat about all things rowing-related, as well as life outside the sport.
GBRT: How and why did you first start rowing?
MG: I didn’t start until I went to university. I was a sailor before then and was asked to do some ergo tests. Afterwards I was told I would probably be suited to rowing so when I got to university I decided to give it a good go. I was lucky enough to be offered a place on the GB Rowing Team Start programme.
GBRT: What has been your biggest success and biggest disappointment in the sport so far?
MG: The biggest success has to be winning at the World Championships last year. It was a little unexpected but we knew we could win if we put it all together on the day. It was an amazing experience all round and the gold was a nice surprise. In terms of disappointments, I have been quite lucky that I haven’t had many. Being a reserve at the 2013 World Championships was difficult at the time but it proved to be a great experience and I took a lot from it into 2014. Similarly I lost my first race at Henley with Nottingham but came back to win the next year. I have been fortunate to bounce back from every disappointment, there is nothing that really sits on my mind for a long time.
GBRT: What have been some of your most memorable moments in your career so far?
MG: Winning at Henley with such a good group of guys. It’s the biggest thing a club can win so it was a really good achievement for everyone. The whole experience at last year’s World Championship was memorable as well. The amount of support that was there for us was overwhelming. Our race was obviously the last one of the championships, so all the rest of the team was there supporting us and we could see them going mad. A medal was the aim but to get gold was incredible. The expectation to medal is always going to be there for a British boat, so there is a bit of pressure on us, but we all pull together and take confidence from each other. They are good guys to work with.
GBRT: What aspirations do you have within the sport?
MG: An Olympic gold medal is obviously the big aspiration but it’s important not to let yourself think about that day in, day out for four years otherwise you get lost. I set myself goals for each season and this year’s is simply to qualify a boat for the Olympics.
GBRT: Who is your best friend within the rowing set-up and why?
MG: Jonny Walton. He would like to say he taught me everything I know. We went to university together and lived together in the third year, then moved down to Henley together. He has more rowing experience than me, so he is useful to be around. The only problem is he supports Chelsea and I am a Tottenham fan.
GBRT: Who do you look up to?
MG: I admire a lot of elite sportspeople and how they apply themselves, people like Chris Hoy who are at the top of their game for a long time through real hard work. They put so much time and effort into their training. You see that in every sport and you can learn so much from them. I used to say I looked up to Lance Armstrong but I’m not sure you can say that any more. My dad was a keen cyclist, so we would always watch the Tour. My involvement in sport is mainly due to my dad.
GBRT: What hobbies and hidden talents do you have?
MG: I like to watch TV, play X-Box, just chilling. I still enjoy sailing but I haven’t had chance to go for a long time, rowing kind of takes over your life. I used to play the saxophone and picked it up again last year for the first time in six years but when I’m not training or competing I am usually relaxing, sleeping or eating.
GBRT: What is your favourite music?
MG: I’m quite into DJs and house music like Swedish House Mafia. Jonny and I went to Ibiza after the 2013 World Championships to unwind. A lot of guys in the team are into house.
GBRT: Favourite books?
MG: You can probably list the novels I have read on one hand. I like to read autobiographies, generally sporting ones.
GBRT: Favourite films and TV shows?
MG: Snatch is definitely my favourite film. I saw it in America when I was 15 and I felt I was really cool going to watch an over-age movie. I get a lot of stick for it but I have a tendency to watch more feminine TV, like Desperate Housewives and Gossip Girl. I say I watch them for the women in it.
GBRT: What qualifications and job aspirations do you have outside of rowing?
MG: I have a degree in System Engineering. I don’t really know what I am going to do with it but there was a lot of problem solving in System Engineering, so maybe I’ll look into that. I also want to remain involved in sport in some way, it’s always been a big part of my life.