Athlete in the Spotlight: Vicki Meyer-Laker
GB Rowing Team news caught up recently with Vicki Meyer-Laker in the latest of our series of spotlight features on squad members. We’ll add another each month so look out for future editions. Tweet us via @GBRowingTeam if there is an athlete you would like to see featured.
Education: Robert Gordon’s College, Aberdeen; King’s School Canterbury; University of Nottingham
Began rowing in: 2006
Clubs (past and present): Nottingham University BC, Leander
Original coach(es): Chris Thomas, Dez Atkins
Vicki Meyer-Laker has her sights firmly set on winning an Olympic medal in 2016 – an ambition fuelled by a holiday to Rio.
She went there in 2009, three years after taking up rowing as a fresher at Nottingham University and at the end of her first season in the GB Rowing Team.
Vicki had been part of the women’s eight which finished seventh at the 2009 European Championships in Brest, a venue she returned to for the following year’s U23 World Championships. She was in the women’s quadruple scull on that occasion, again finishing seventh.
Vicki returned to the eight for the 2011 and 2012 European Championships, placing fourth and winning a bronze medal respectively. Just talking about the latter race still gives Vicki goosebumps.
The 2013 season saw Vicki teamed with Frances Houghton in the double scull, bagging bronze at the Sydney World Cup before winning gold at Eton Dorney.
After narrowly missing out on a medal at the World Championships in Chungju, South Korea, Vicki was selected for the women’s quad for 2014 alongside Tina Stiller, Lucinda Gooderham and Beth Rodford. The crew finished ninth at the World Championships in Amsterdam.
Now, after missing the GB Rowing Team Senior Trials and European Championships through injury, Vicki is back in the women’s eight for the World Cup in Varese, Italy on June 19-21.
We caught up with Vicki to chat about her rowing career to date, her Olympic ambitions and life outside the boat.
GBRT: How and why did you first start rowing?
VML: I signed up at a freshers’ fair at Nottingham University but it probably started a bit before then. I had friends at school who rowed and tried to get me along. I used to do sailing and swimming at the time, which was absolutely fine for me, but I watched them on the lake and it obviously caught my interest, so when I went to university I thought “let’s give this a try”. My dad used to row as well when he was a kid and has always been very supportive of me.
GBRT: What has been your biggest success and your biggest disappointment in the sport so far?
VML: Probably winning at the World Cup at Eton Dorney in 2013 was my greatest success. I was very disappointed not to get a medal at the World Championships that year, I remember feeling very gutted when we came fourth, but I don’t really mull over the disappointments too much, I tend to look forward more.
GBRT: What are some of your most memorable moments in your career so far?
VML: Probably my most memorable moment was going to the Europeans in 2012. It was a tumultuous summer trying to get a crew together but we went out and did really well. We had a couple of team-mates in the eight [Caragh McMurtry and Olivia Carnegie-Brown] who raced in the pair as well and won a silver medal. They had a last 500 which really worked, so we all bought into that in the eight and had just the most amazing race in the final. We came through the field massively and won a bronze medal right on the line, it was superb coxing. It still gives me goosebumps thinking about it now!
GBRT: What aspirations do you have within the sport?
VML: Getting a first Olympic medal in the women’s eight for Britain is a nice dream to chase. I am very much about enjoying the journey, it would almost be meaningless if the path wasn’t worthwhile. I went to Rio on holiday just after it was announced the Olympics would be there. I’d just started rowing and remember looking down over the big basin where the rowing will be, thinking how incredibly inspiring it would be to be in this position at the Olympics having won a medal. It would just be incredible.
GBRT: Who is your best friend within the rowing set-up and why?
VML: That’s really hard to say because sometimes you are in competition with certain people, so I find friendships are quite fluid. The most consistent friends are actually in the other squads, like the men or the lightweights. I wouldn’t say I have one best friend but I have very close relationships and I know I can go to certain people for certain things. The whole environment is quite supportive and it is getting more so.
GBRT: Who do you look up to?
VML: I’m quite good friends with [Czech single scull Olympic champion] Mirka Knapkova and I love the way that her ethos seems quite easy going. She’s also just an incredible athlete. Obviously the New Zealand pair [Hamish Bond and Eric Murray] are exceptional. They keep pushing their boundaries, keep breaking records.
GBRT: What hobbies and hidden talents do you have?
VML: In the summer I really like going down the park and doing a bit of slacklining. That’s where you string a band between two trees and have a play on it, it’s really sociable and good for balance too. I’m a real outdoors person. I also like doing practical things, making bits and bobs.
GBRT: What are some of your favourite bands?
VML: I like quite a lot of singer/songwriter stuff, things with powerful, interesting vocals. Alt-J are good. On my playlist I have a lot of old classics from my mom’s era. It’s really cringe when Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water comes on. I’ve just discovered Spotify as well, which is amazing. I can get very set in my music, so it’s nice to be able to have a fast turnover of new stuff without having to spend loads of money.
GBRT: Favourite books?
VML: I think I have a reading age of about 14. I loved The Hunger Games, I think they’ve been ruined a bit by the films but the books are so good. I really enjoyed The Book Thief as well. I know they’re quite young reading, so I’ve recently taken on Paradox by Jim Al-Khalili which is something more intellectual. Reading is a Godsend on training camp, I read pretty much all the time to switch off. When I’m back home, I find I get busy and never get round to it.
GBRT: Favourite films and TV shows?
VML: I don’t actually watch that much. I find it’s not a very good way to switch off, I don’t feel like I’ve had a rest after watching a programme, although, the best TV show that has ever been made is Green Wing – it’s an oldie but a goodie.
GBRT: What qualifications and job aspirations do you have outside of rowing?
VML: I pulled out of university to row, so I would like to go back to studies. I would really like to go to Germany and study something like physics. My mom is German, so I would like to embed the language properly and become fluent. In the long run I am interested in food production and making it easier for people to make their food choices – I know that’s nothing to do with physics. Food is such a big thing in our culture, people care so much more about where it comes from.