Beccy Muzerie has been selected for her first Olympics, representing GB in the women’s eight. She shares her thoughts on the extraordinary experiences to come
I am going to the Olympics. The delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. That is totally extraordinary. And at the same time, it is very normal. Two opposing statements, both true at the same time.
When you are selected for the Olympic Games, it is in some senses, entirely normal. Prior to the moment of selection, you have been training as part of the GB Rowing Team for years, surrounded by like-minded people with the common Olympic goal. It is in the background of every decision and each stroke. There are pictures of previous Olympians on the walls, plaques detailing their names hovering over you as you eat, you do the same training and sweat alongside athletes who are already Olympians and are coached by numerous staff who have been to the Games.
The morning after the all-important email confirming my nomination to Team GB, the world didn’t stop turning. Training continued as normal. No fuss. No change. Just taking more strokes towards our goal.
“I get to be one of those athletes creating the experience for the rest of the globe to enjoy”
But at the same time, it is completely extraordinary. You suddenly become part of a unique group of people. Just 360 (approx.) individuals, carefully selected from the entire country, considered talented enough to compete against the rest of the world. You become an Olympian. For life. That dream you have been silently chasing is suddenly a reality. And everyone knows what the Olympics is. Thousands of people long to be in your shoes. Millions of people will tune in to watch the greatest sporting event on the planet. And I get to be one of those athletes creating the experience for the rest of the globe to enjoy.
I think it is vital to exist in both those truths at once. Remembering and appreciating how special what we are doing is, not letting the opportunity pass me by. But also letting it be normal; it’s the same people, same boat, same aim to move fast backwards over 2,000m. I don’t need to do anything different – and reminding myself of that enables me to perform under pressure.
To me, a key element of rowing is the ability to hold two opposite ideas as true at the same time. As a sweeper, one of the things that I love about rowing is that it is both an individual and team game. Individually, you want to be as strong and as fast as you can.
We spend hours on ergs, focusing on our individual splits, we are ranked by our 2km test scores, we are raced as individuals for seats in crew boats. We row focusing on our own muscles, concentrating on the small technical changes that make us that bit better at moving the boat. But rowing is fundamentally a team sport where your ability to work with others, ultimately, determines the outcome of the race.
With one sweep blade, you are not getting anywhere alone. What matters is how you move together in the boat, how you communicate with those in your crew and how well you support each other on and off the water. At the elite level that team is bigger than those in the boat. It relies on the support of coaches, physios, psychologists, physiologists – and many more – to ensure that the individuals create a team that is more than the sum of its parts.
There are other examples of seemingly contradictions in rowing. The stroke itself – ideally every muscle in your body is engaged to transfer your power through the blade and into the water, but at the same time you want to be loose and relaxed, so all that energy reaches the water. In racing – fundamentally, the aim is to get your boat from A to B as fast as possible, seemingly an internal process, but we all know that the external presence of another boat alongside changes how the race pans out. The trick is using the external environment to your advantage, rather than it being a negative distraction.
On a deeper level, I would argue that this is one of rowing’s many valuable life-lessons. To get the most out of life and have good relationships with those around us, we need to acknowledge that there are different ways of seeing and interpreting situations. We can pool our strengths and insights to have a broader understanding.
As for me, I am committing to building into the Olympic Games by calming my nerves with the normality of rowing, whilst also taking time to acknowledge the achievement and embracing all the opportunities this extraordinary event will bring.
Bring it on Tokyo 2020!
Photo: Getty Images