Ollie Cook with teammates at Dorney Lake

Diary of an Olympian: The medals are in their boxes, but there’s still everything to race for!

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

It has now been more than twelve weeks since we went into lockdown. I have an embarrassing confession; I think there is a very good chance that these past three months have been the longest I have gone without rowing for eighteen years. I can just imagine an old coach of mine reading this and thinking some enforced time away from the sport may do me some good.

These past few weeks have seen an influx of information regarding the Olympic Games next year. The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee declared that; “the Games will not be a grand splendour, but will be a simplified Games”. There has been a lot of talk about when and how a decision will be made about the Games, if a vaccine isn’t developed. With lots of speculation and differing opinions it can feel, at times, quite uneasy that things appear so uncertain. Nonetheless, every now and again it feels good to be reminded of why the Games still matter, and what we’re training for. This was just what happened when, as a squad, we all virtually spoke together last week.

Coach Jurgen reminded us that, while there is a lot of speculation about what may happen, and how it may happen, at the end of the day the Olympic medals are already in their boxes ready to be raced for.

Jurgen is right. The Games are not going ahead this year, and in addition to this, they may be a “simplified” version next year. However, the reason we do this, the reason we are still training full time in our “home environments”; our garages, kitchens, and gardens, is to represent your country. I don’t think about the glitz and glamour of the opening ceremony, the pageantry of the occasion, or even the moment in the spotlight. It’s about the “Olympic Spirit”, striving for something and being the best you can be.

These things don’t change if there is no firework bedazzled opening ceremony, or even if we have to compete without our friends, family and supporters in the stands. On the other hand, those things are great and it would be sad if a lot of these things are missing. At its essence it doesn’t change the game.

The last month has seen some key dates of the expected 2020 season come and go. For example, we were supposed to have our official Olympic announcement on the 8th June and our “Olympic kit” day on 10th June, instead the days are rolling by in lockdown. Therefore the four of us met up for the first time mid-June for a short socially distanced catch up. It had been three months since we last all saw each other. Of course there was the obligatory facial hair, “castaway chic”, and the DIY haircuts, but above all it was great to see the team and talk about how everyone is getting on. Undoubtedly a timely reminder that as a boat, and indeed as a whole squad, we may be training individually, but we’re in this together.

However, as lockdown measures begin to very slowly lift, British Rowing as an organisation, we’re in no rush to get back on the water. When the time comes for me to dip my oar back in the question will be can I remember how to row after all this time? Joking aside, the medals are in their boxes and we are looking forward to opportunity to race for them, and compete for our country.