You know itís the Olympics whenÖ..
Well London 2012 starts in 2 days time and itís that time of year when you have done all the hard work, and its time to put the icing on the cake.
This is the time of year I love, physically you are in as good a shape as youíll ever be, if its been a good season and youíve done the training, your in with a shot of winning, your mind is now your biggest asset/liability from here to the final. If you havenít done the work you probably donít have much of a chance and no matter what you do from here isnít going to get you competitive. I always think of this time as very important and fun. You have done the grind and now its time for the enjoyment!
When I last updated you, I was just getting back in the boat. Happily I can report my shoulder has kept improving and each day causes me less and less pain. It is now back to 85-90% fixed, with fairly much full range and only the odd movement that causes me pain. At high intensity I feel it in the boat, but it will not be an issue for me or affect the way I race.
Training in Switzerland has been good, I have done a few more sessions in the boat than usual over the past 3 weeks, to make up for some of the time I missed, as well as a couple of epic mountain rides on my bike. One included 3 mountain passes over 2000M in altitude in succession. The one bonus about the time off the water with my shoulder, is my back is feeling the best it has since I first injured it in 2010 (touch wood) which has allowed me to do the extra rowing sessions.
Training has been very solid and tough over the past few weeks. I have certainly felt fairly fatigued for most of it, although my body is strong and the numbers have all been improving. Since arriving in London and getting back on the Dorney course, my boat has been slipping along nicely and as I freshen up a wee bit my boat seems to be feeling easier and easier to row.
We arrived in London on Monday after a final week of training in Lucerne in Switzerland making use of the course there. It was fairly immediately obvious this was the Olympics from the time we touched down. The World Champs and Olympics donít change at all on the water. The course is exactly the same, the buoys are the same, the water is the same, the start procedure is the same, the distance is still 2K and the competitors are the same, but thatís where the similarities end!
How can you tell itís the Olympics then? Well thatís the fun part. You arrive off the plane, are met by a chaperone and escorted through the airport. You get to go through the special Olympic lane through border security. You are then presented with the single most important card in your life for the next three weeks, your accreditation. This will be with you 24/7, it is your key to getting into Olympic venues, on transport, allow you to eat at the dining halls and put you in the exclusive Olympic Accreditation club. With it you are treated differently, you are a VIP and almost feel like a god, without it you cant do anything, including compete so it becomes a part of you.
Once through accreditation we were off to bag belts to find all our bags sitting and waiting in the special Olympic bag drop. We were ferried out of the airport and onto a bus to be whisked to our day house (where the NZ Rowing team spend our days). After Lunch we then headed for the lake. Once again its clear your at the Olympics and not the Worlds when you are dropped at the gate of the venue that is heavily guarded and surrounded by fences and barricades you would expect to see at a British army base in Afghanistan more than a rowing course in the UK. It is through security and onto the shuttle base for a ride to the boat park. The other thing that you soon remember about the Olympics is that you better get used to walking because you will do a fair bit of it.
The Dorney Course is a familiar place for me, I have done a lot of training on it and raced here in 2006. Although that was the Dorney Course, which is quite different from the Olympic Dorney Course. After the barricades and security the most prominent landmark are the two 90M temporary towers at each end of the course, these are impressive structures and are 2400M apart. Between them are 4 single span wires going right down the middle of the course. They are impressive to say the least and required some magnificent engineering. I would hate to know the cost and it has set a world record for the longest unsupported span of wire in the world. All this just for a few overhead camera shots during racing. Although I have no doubt with it involved, it will be a new standard in rowing footage and there will be some wonderful shots (although I am concerned it may show up my thinning hair on top of my head, that very few people are tall enough to see).
As you continue down the course, you are struck by the Olympic rings on the side of the course, the two temporary cellphone towers, the hundreds of kilometers of cabling and wires running all over the venue, the massive grandstands, the full Kayaking village at the 500M mark, the workers courters with huge skips for rubbish and various machines to run this temporary city. At the boat park there are tents everywhere, volunteers helping direct you in the right direction, the usual fridges full of free drinks. If thatís not enough to convince you this is the Olympics, then the throngs of media that take a huge interest in your every move should be the final straw to convince you. It is a very impressive set up and makes you shudder at the budget they must have, especially when this is just one of the 26 Olympic sports and venues. The logistics are quite awe inspiring.
Now Iím not sure how much control these Olympic organisers have, but the other glaring thing we noticed from the time we landed was the impressive sunny weather and a temperature of 30+ degrees, all I have heard is that its been raining for 60 days here. Hard to believe itís actually the UK arriving to the sunshine, so maybe these organisers are more powerful than I thought. We will just add that to the, you know itís the Olympics when file.
We rigged our boats and got on the water. It was actually quite a nice reprieve to get out on the water and realise that some things donít change. The course is just how I remember it and every row I have had here has been a good one, there is something familiar about this course, a good feeling I have when Im out there and one I hope continues for the next 10 days or so. This is my third Olympics, experience has taught me that on the water is the important part, everything else doesnít matter. You have a job to do and if itís the Worlds, Olympics or a club regatta at home, nothing changes and the processors you go through to perform shouldnít either.
We headed for the Rowing Village after our session, again there is some differences, the Olympic lanes that only Olympic vehicles can use made the journey a quick one. We arrived again into fairly familiar surrounds. The Rowing village is at Royal Holloway College where we were based in 2006. Again the security has been beefed up and the blockades capable of stopping any vehicle known to man are the first thing you notice, with the special tactics police with big guns the second. Once you get inside things become a wee bit more normal. There is the colourful Olympic signage everywhere and the impressive food hall and every facility you might need. Again this is one of those special accreditation only zones but once inside you just take it all as normal, this is the way life was supposed to be! The food has been good and its enjoyable sitting outside in the sunshine eating dinner and listening to live music, itís a great atmosphere and very colourful and happy scene with all the athletes and countries sitting around enjoying themselves before the competition starts.
Well its taken twelve years to get to this point and four years of hard work, blood, sweat and tears since Beijing, all for the next ten days. I am happy with where I am, I have done what I have needed to do to be competitive here and the next 10 days will decide how competitive I will be. I am really looking forward to racing (It starts Saturday). Sitting here in the village it is hard to believe that it was four years ago that we last went through this whole circus that is the Olympics.
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