School: Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar School
International rowing record: GB JW4- 2015 World Rowing Junior Championships 2015, GB JW4x 2016 Munich Junior International Regatta
Year started rowing: 2011
How have you coped this year?
It has been a tough year for everyone in the world and I think it has been an opportunity to reassess and question things. For me, this has been a chance to reflect on my rowing career to date and remind myself why I love this sport. When I think back to past races I feel motivated to work towards future competitions, which has kept me driven for my lockdown training. On top of all this, baking brownies has been a lifeline.
Could you build a strong team culture while training virtually?
Missing out on training camp was disappointing as this is where I felt the team bonded last season. With that said, I think the OUWBC team did a really great job at creating a positive team culture, albeit virtually. We did lots of our training on Zoom together which was a weird experience, but it made tough ergs a bit easier. As well as this, we had socials online – whether that was a yoga session or just a quick catch-up with the team. Overall, I think we have cultivated a strong team culture.
Were the isolated ergs better or worse than expected?
I am going to be honest, lockdown is tough on its own. January was a dark time – metaphorically and physically. It rained every day, it was cold, it was dark. The news was bleak. There was no end to lockdown in sight. And then add on hours of pulling on a chain in my parent’s garage. This felt like self-flagellation. It was not a fun experience and I would not want to do it again. But as a junior, I trained on my own a lot so I am very self-motivated. I think what was hard was not knowing if the race was going to happen. I kept thinking, “what if this is all for nothing?”. I pushed through those negative thoughts and I think I am stronger for it. Now the race is happening, it feels like it was worth it.
What was your lockdown training set up?
I had an erg in the garage. It was simple but effective. We have a punching bag as well so that helped with my strength training (and stress management). I also invested in a weighted hula hoop as a lockdown hobby and it has helped with my core strength and coordination.
How do you cope with race day nerves?
For me, being prepared and having a plan is important. Control the controllables and don’t worry about anything else. I get pretty specific, so will have everything sorted whether that is the snack I am eating beforehand or the socks I am wearing. I will make a schedule working backwards from the race time, then plan my kit ahead of time, and make sure all my food is sorted. In the morning, I like to do affirmations and visualisations to feel self-confident. If all this is sorted before race day, I know I will feel calmer on the day. And I trust in the training and my teammates –I know that we are strong, determined and fit. Nerves are a positive sign because it shows that the race means something to you.
The biggest challenge?
Dealing with the uncertainty – we did not even know the race was going ahead until a few weeks ago. Having to train hard with no guarantee of a race at the end was tough.
The toughest session?
5km test – anyone who has done one will vouch for me.
The best day, so far?
The first day we were back on the water. It felt like I had been in a time warp for a year since lockdown got announced in March 2020. So much time has passed but very little has changed. It was amazing to come back and see how excited we all were after so long apart. Everyone was in great shape after hard lockdown training and taking the first strokes of the session was so nice.
Only the Blue Boat races on the 4th April 2021: What’s it like splitting the squad?
Terrible. It felt pretty brutal to those who were not invited back. While I was happy to be allowed to train, it feels bittersweet. I am so grateful the race is happening, but I feel sad for those who are still training alone at home.
Is it strange to train without the reserve eight?
Yes. Rowing is a team sport, and the squad atmosphere is important.
How did it feel getting back on the water?
Why do you want to beat Cambridge?
It is our Gestalt. It is hard to put into words. It is about bringing everything from the last two years together and getting a sense of closure. I have invested a lot of time and energy – whatever the result, I know that we will go down the track and lay it all on the line. It is about the OUW legacy and all my teammates who have been training so hard. The race being cancelled last year was devastating –I want to have the opportunity to finally complete this campaign.