I was about to enter struggle street but I was actually really looking forward to it.
After the London games there was no doubt in my mind that I would continue towards Rio. However, this wasn’t the case in Rio looking towards Tokyo. In 2014 I was convinced that Rio would be my last Olympics, but the closer the games came the more uncertain I became. I was consistently getting better and would be in the best shape of my life in Rio but I believed I would still have more to come. I had been rowing 9 years and in an endurance sport that isn’t that long, so I knew I could still improve.
After Rio the idea of life after sport was daunting but exciting and something I really took some time to think about. However, I knew I could be a better athlete in four years’ time and I definitely didn’t want to leave the sport and in a couple of years think, what if I had carried on, what could I have achieved? The standard time off after an Olympics is two months but I knew this wouldn’t be long enough for me to make a decision, let alone be ready to go for another four years. I was exhausted mentally and physically, I owed myself some downtime and I knew if I returned I needed to feel fresh and eager to get back to it.
I am the type of person that when a decision needs to be made I just get on and make it. I don’t like sitting on anything very long. However, at this time I found myself happy to sit on this decision and hoped that the answer would just come to me.
On the plane home from an incredible holiday in Cape Town in December, I knew I had to make a decision but it still wasn’t clear in my mind like I hoped it would be. I was 90% sure I wanted to return but I still had doubts.
Did I really want to put my life on hold in a lot of ways for one 7 minute chance of becoming Olympic champion?
The decision wasn’t just about me. Having the support of my closest friends and family was important but my boyfriend Rick’s support was fundamental. After all he has to live with me every day and deal with me on my bad days! Rick won medals in Beijing and London in the men’s eight, so he knows exactly what the sport is like and what it demands of you. He was very clear in saying that he would support any decision I made, but he didn’t want to influence me either way and the decision had to be mine alone.
I had never experienced success like I had in Rio and for so long that Olympic medal was such a drive. The question I asked myself was – would I still be as driven and have the same fire in my belly post Rio? In the Olympic final I had answered a lot of the questions that had been haunting me for the last few years. Do I really have what it takes to be one of the best in the world? Can I really handle that big pressure and excel on the world’s biggest sporting stage when it matters the most? We didn’t win the gold medal and of course becoming Olympic champion is what I do this for, but I did have a lovely silver medal. Did I really want to put my life on hold in a lot of ways for one 7 minute chance of becoming Olympic champion?
I decided I didn’t want more time to think it over, I just needed to get back in the boat and see how I felt. I knew there was a lot of suffering to come my way after what was a great extended holiday. I had kept myself reasonably fit in the 5 months off as I really enjoy training and how it makes me feel. But reasonably fit and Olympic rower fit don’t even begin compare. I was about to enter struggle street but I was actually really looking forward to it.