Diary of an Olympian: Back on the water – where routine never felt so good

Continuing our series, “Diary of an Olympian”, Ollie Cook shares another insight with us. 

It was with some trepidation that I pushed off the landing stage to take my first stroke of the 2021 season, and my first real rowing strokes in over five months. Fortunately, the arm bands were unnecessary, but the new blisters on soft hands were inevitable.

This past month has seen the GB rowing team return to our national training centre in Caversham to start the new season, the postponed 2020 Olympic season. It was like the first day back at school. Team mates who had existed only as faces over Zoom since March, were now sporting hairstyles last seen at a music festival in the ‘60s. Some had big news – one of the guys in the team is soon due to become a dad for the first time. Some had enjoyed training in lockdown, others a little less so. But the flurry of catching up with the team, who I had grown accustomed to seeing almost every day for three and half years, was made all the more strange as we stood two meters apart, wearing masks. Even so, it has been great to be back training as a squad.

It is a small confession, and one I know I will regret as the days draw shorter and colder. But I have really enjoyed getting back into the familiar routine of training; of having a place to be, a time to be there, and knowing that a bunch of guys equally motivated will be there too. There are now new challenges: we have to rotate the various squads that make up the GB rowing team through the building at different times, and at different locations. We have to religiously clean our equipment and stay as socially distant as possible. We have to wear masks whenever we’re not actually training or eating. And we have to trust each other to be as safe as possible when we’re not together at Caversham. But, these are details. For the time being at the very least we can train together again – in crew boats, on the rowing machine, in the weights room, without the obstacles we have had to deal with to make these competitive and of Great Britain Olympic quality.

I have been asked every now and again; how am I and how is the team dealing with the uncertainty of what may happen with the Games next year? In truth, sometimes thinking about it too much is not always a good thing. We can’t control what may or may not happen. Rather we can think metaphorically, and literally, about the stroke we’re currently taking. What we’re doing right now, how we’re doing it, and whether we can do it better. We can control how well we train now and during whatever challenges lay ahead. With so much uncertainty we’re keeping it simple. We’re training hard, we’re never complacent, and we’re preparing, with fingers crossed, that we get that chance to represent Great Britain at the Tokyo 2020 (+1) Olympic Games.

Oliver Cook: GB Rower, World Champion and Boat Race winner. Eton Bridge Partners are sponsoring GB rower Oliver Cook in his ongoing training as part of the Team GB squad in the lead-up to the next Olympics games. Since the games have been postponed to 2021, Ollie is continuing to give us regular updates on his progress and performance, and the grueling mental and physical challenges he faces as part of the Olympic squad.

Ollie’s last blog:

Diary of an Olympian: lighting the fire for 2020+1