I want to go to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
To most, that probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise considering I am part of the GB rowing team but the reality is, that sentence is hard to write. It is a bold statement, a big dream. It leaves space for this thing that we are often so afraid of, failure.
The first time anyone put the notion of me and the Olympics in the same sentence was the day I got back from my first gym session a few weeks after signing up to row at University. Having never set foot in a gym I was surprised to learn the whole outing took more than 20 minutes, and shocked to discover that whilst my right arm understood the instruction for bench press, my left arm appeared to have no bar lifting ability whatsoever. Upon my return I laughed at the housemate who felt that this experience signified I was Olympic material and limped off.
Five years later I found myself up a snowy Spanish mountain on altitude camp, discovering for the first time that living a life of ‘eat, sleep, row, repeat’ was actually rather enjoyable despite the fact that ‘rowing’ consisted only of erging (rowing machines) in an oversized sports hall. Preparations for Rio 2016 Olympics were firmly underway far out of my sights, and when my roommate asked me if I was given the opportunity would I race in Rio I answered without hesitation, of course not. I was nowhere near good enough and it would be a total embarrassment.
The following September, after watching the medals pour in at the 2016 Olympics, I walked into the national training centre in Caversham to begin training full time as part of the team. Secretly, I couldn’t believe I was there. I recall sharing with my best friend that I was worried about the state of the team if they were inviting me to be part of it, because there was no way I was good enough. Granted I had been attending GB trials for the last few years, and committing every free hour outside of study and work to training, but that was because I loved it and wanted to be better. I didn’t have the self-belief to walk into Caversham with the sense I deserved to be there.
Since becoming part of the team, it is an understandably common question to be asked; ‘So are you going to the Olympics?’. I have always brushed it off, explaining that there are so many variables between now and then, illness and injury being two major contributors before you even begin to consider talent. Because it’s not a simple process, and I guess quite honestly I don’t want people to get excited for me only to let them down if I fail to make it.
But now? My last three years on the team has taught me that it is not a straight road and there are far more obstacles and challenges to overcome than I could have imagined. But I have also learnt that we have to dream big. To not put limits on ourselves. To use all we know about ourselves, all we have learnt through each good or challenging experience to push ourselves forward. And I have come to believe that I am good enough. I am daring to dream.