Since watching Carl Lewis win at the Olympics in 1988 in Seoul, I wanted to be an Olympic Champion.
I tried most sports at School, I loved sport and loved competing, but was never good enough at anything to realise my Olympic dream.
I had all but given up on ever making the Olympics when I started rowing for fun at University. I loved the sport, did well but was never a star. I rowed for two years, gave up and then came back to the sport at the end of 2000.
I was fortunate that in 2001 the Rowing NZ selectors didn't have a huge pool of athletes to select from, so they took a punt and selected eight guys on their future potential. I was part of that group and from there, worked my way up to make the Elite Coxless Four for the 2003 World Championships and the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004.
After the 2004 Olympics I temporarily moved to the UK and started in the single scull. It was tough at first and it took a while to come to grips with an extra oar and being all by myself. I had a slight setback in April 2005 when I fractured my back and got bruised kidneys, when a waterskiier collided with me while training at Lake Karapiro. I overcame that, to win my first World Championship title in Gifu, Japan in August 2005.
This was better than a dream start to my single sculling career. I continued in the single and won my second world title in Eton in 2006, setting a world best time along the way. This was a very tight race with Marcel Hacker leading the whole race. I led for three strokes, but they were the important last three and I took my second world title by a margin of 0.09 seconds.
I continued my winning ways in 2007, taking my third consecutive world title and being the first male single sculler to achieve that feat.
2008 was a tough year, I had a very public and hard fought battle on the water with Rob Waddell, to claim New Zealand's spot in the single scull for the Beijing Olympics.
I was selected as flag bearer and team captain for the New Zealand Olympic Team and it was a great honour to led the New Zealand Team into the Birds Nest Stadium at the opening ceremony in Beijing.
Unfortunately I picked up a stomach virus during the Olympics. Initially I thought it was food poisoning and would only last a couple of days. Unfortunately it wasn't and as the week went on I lost more weight and became more and more dehydrated.
During the semi final, it took it's toll and I struggled over the finish line, only just making the final. I was then sent for medical attention at the village, including IV drips for rehydration. I was in good shape the night before the final. Overnight I lost 4kg and was dehydrated heading into the final. I raced my race knowing there was no excuse and this was the day I had to perform. Things were going well when I took the lead shortly after the half way mark. With 250m to go I had about a lengths lead, but was starting to feel the toll on my body. As I reached the last 100m I had a very slim lead, but had no more push and was passed by both Olaf Tufte and Ondrej Synek finishing with the Bronze Medal.
I was disappointed not to have achieved my dream of an Olympic Gold Medal, but also very pleased to be on the dais, knowing I had given it my all. You can only give 100% and when you do that and are beaten, you have to accept the fact that there are people that are better than you, no excuse. That's sport and that's why people including myself love it. It is unpredictable and it's all about performing to your best at a certain time, on a certain day when it counts most.
I took a break after the Olympics to reflect and make decisions about the future. After four months away from rowing, it was an easy decision to make the choice to continue until at least 2012 and the London Olympics. I felt I still had improvements to make, I loved the sport and missed not being out there, plus I was getting fat with the time off. I had put on 18kg since I raced the final at the Olympics.
I started back training in January 2009. I quickly lost the extra weight, started to get fit and worked on improving some technical aspects of my stroke. It was a great year all in all and I managed to go through the season unbeaten, winning two World Cup regattas, the Diamonds at the Henley Royal Regatta, the Holland Beker Regatta and finished it off with a world best time and my fourth world title at the World Championships in August 2009.
This was a great start to my 2012 Olympic Campaign. I am confident I can continue the improvements and achieve my dream on Saturday the 4th of August 2012 in London.
2010 has been a very frustrating year for me as I have battled an injury to my of the discs in my low back. I thought I had finally overcome the problem in July and got a solid block of training in, only to be derailed once more at the end of September, 1 months before the start of the World Champs. With a disrupted last month of training I made it through to the champs but didn't have enough speed to defend my world title having to settle for Silver, a good result in the circumstances but one I was ultimately still disappointed with. The crowds and event as a whole were wonderful and a full credit to all involved, it certainly put New Zealand on the map and gave us all as athletes something to be very proud of and ultimately infrastructure that will serve the sport well for decades to come.
After the World champs we had three weeks off before getting back into things, around Christmas I got a further back injury. After a period of rest and further scans it was found that the pain was caused due to osteo arthritis in my facet joint in my back. This has meant a re think about training and meant a lot of time spent on the bike and less on the water as extention of my back during the rowing stroke aggrevates this condition.
Since March 2011 I have tried various things and feel I have finally found a way to train differently but just as effectively. It means more hours training and a lot of lonely hours by myself on the bike. So far it has been effective and I have managed to get back to a very good level of fitness and loose the weight I gained during being injured. At the Worlds in Bled in September 2011 I had a close call with a run in with a car while riding my bike the day before racing started. Thankfully apart from a few graises and pulled muscles, I manged to put it all together and win my record equalling fifth World title. It was certainly the sweetest, It put any doubt about getting back on top behind me and proved that I had finally found a way around the injury issues I was having.
I still have some pain in my back at times, but with careful management I can say it no longer effects my training. Since March 2011 I havent missed a training session due to my back. I am hoping that continues through this year so I can prepare and achieve my goals in August 2012 at the London Olympics. Its now less than 200 days to go so an important time, but at this stage training is well on track.