Since the end of World Champs last year, I have been quiet on all fronts and not just rowing. This post is just a update on my current situation and the path going forward in all respects.
To start, let’s talk about the experience at World Champs last year in America. It didn’t go so well for us in the Mens Heavyweight Four. We found ourselves racing in the C final and winning it which placed us 13th in the world. With the result of 4th in Lucerne earlier in the season, our sights were set on the podium and it seemed at the time such a close objective, such a small step to take, but turned out to be out of our grasp again.
I did not leave that regatta not having put all my cards on the table, even in that C final I pushed my body as hard as I would have in an Olympic final – it was just the fact that we were not fast enough. Personally it was quite a tough result to swallow. In my short rowing career on the international circuit I have managed to take positive steps and have made meaningful progression each year. This was my first experience of a proper disappointment.
In my arrogance I thought coming 4th at the Olympics was the rite of passage that would lead to my success in a rowing boat, and although I trained as hard as I have been, the mentality of my training changed. I became confident in my weaknesses, arrogant where there used to be humility and maybe even entitled in my limits – betraying the values that I have stuck to thus far.
Following the World Championships and after a short break that was packed with efforts to rescue my semester at university (which I did), the training started again and I was eager to push on from a bad result. But my training was becoming laboured and more difficult than it should have been. Numbers were not coinciding to the effort they warranted and I was slipping behind the rest of squad in day-to-day training. Eventually I had a chat with our chief, Roger, and decided to take a break until the due date of the surgery I needed on my arm.
My right forearm had compartments syndrome, which made my sculling (not the sweep rowing) very painful and limited every performance. We do a lot of sculling here in South Africa so this was a major setback. So the plan was to have this operation after the end of the season and also use it as an opportunity to get some much needed rest. I went into theater on the 24 November.
The surgery wasn’t that bad, I was out on the same day and on the next, my sister drove me home to my farm. After 2 weeks I began to start training again, only running and cycling as I couldn’t put any load on my arm. It was difficult to start with but naturally I didn’t think too much about it after taking some time off and being operated on. But I did not feel any better.
The numbers were still not right. After training at an elite level for 4 years I knew that my body was not behaving as it should have been. But for the rest of December I continued with my light training programme and tried not to think too much about it. Rather, I focused on enjoying the opportunity to spend some time at home with my family and actually go on holiday together. I realised that I hadn’t spent that much time with them since I left for boarding school at the age of 9. Not that it is some sort of burden or self-proclaimed suffering that can be seen as a kind of achievement, just that I have sacrificed a great deal and it was really great to be home.
After a good long break and some weeks of dodgy physical exercise it was time to get back to Pretoria and get on the ergo – time to see if my body was ready to start firing again. After my first ergo session, I knew that my body was telling me the truth – that there was indeed something wrong.
So that’s where I am now, resting. Still working on getting my shit together but giving my body the time it needs to start firing again. Time to work on the rest of my life also, doing some of this – writing – working on a podcast with Lawrence and finishing my degree.
My season is not finished, I’m just going to have to work bloody hard to get back into a boat as the rest of the team is looking faster than ever and I can’t wait to throw myself among the wolves and start hunting again.
But until then, I’m staying humble and hungry.