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, unfortunitely 2010 didnt quite go as planned I had a lower back disc injury that led onto Osteo Arthritis in my low back. I struggled for the best part of a year to overcome the injury finally having to changed the way I trained, to do less in the boat and more on the bike. I managed to pull off a silver at the World champs at home in 2010, which I was fairly pleased with considering the disrupted build up.
Since 2011 I trained differently to allow for my back. It means more hours training and a lot of lonely hours by myself on the bike. Despite a mishap involving bike v car the day before the 2011 Worlds in Bled in September 2011, I manged to pull it all together and win a record equalling fifth World title.
2012 was all on track until I had anothe bike v car incident 6 weeks out from the games and sustained an AC joint injury. Keeping me out of the boat for 3 weeks. Thankfully I went on to overcome this, having a great battle in the Olympic final against Ondrej Synek. It was a huge relief and very satisfying to achieve my dream of winning an Olympic Gold medal.
Since the Olympics it has been a whirlwind travelling the country and World, while having a break from Rowing. I had a few new challenges to overcome, competing in the Coast to Coast, Ironman and NZPGA Championship.
June 2013 I was back in the boat full time working toward winning a second gold in Rio in 2016. Its great to of had a break and its exciting trying to get back into shape and rowing fitness to compete well at the Worlds this August.
Will keep you posted where my next journey takes me!