Once upon a time

Once upon time, a rower was dreaming of a gold medal at the Olympic Games. But he had to face mountains and deserts to succeed in his quest. Sometimes his quest seemed very far away but he kept going...
I would love to start this post as if it was a fairy tale and I could create a happy end. But I am not going to tell you about the dragons in that story. 2 weeks later, reality is still as morose as before. Rio 2016 seems very far away. I try to look at it upside down but nothing changes. Some people might say that 5 months ago, I would have been happy to be in a boat in Aiguebelette. Others that we can still qualify in 8 months or that we gained in experience and that we only just missed the qualification.

It is all true but at the end of the day, we still don’t have the precious Olympic ticket. The 2015 World championships were a sum of details that would like to change. Everything started in our heat. We faced the Germans, the now 2015 World Champions. Only 2 spots for the semi final. We thought we were going to have our usual fast start to take the lead with them in order to make that no one was going to try. An average start and we were a length behind at the 500m with a young Lithuanian crew hanging on behind. 2nd the all way, we did a mistake in the last 250. One missed stroke and the mechanics goes off. We finished 3rd and we were on our way to the repechage. But the event looked like first 12 could pretend to a final and the 2014 world champion and silver medallist as well as the 2014 European champions got also trapped into the repechage. Cherry on top of the cake, we ended up in the same repechage where only first 3 would earned a place for the semi. One of us was going to be in the C-final with no chance to qualify for Rio. We raced with our guts. It was probably the most stressful race of my career. We came 3rd with Russia who finished 4th. Everyone took the lead at some point and we crossed the line in a canvas with only 34 hundredth of second between the first 3 and the Russians giving up on their last stroke. So intense. But we only earned the right to race a semi that could have been a final ! Poland, Estonia, Germany, New Zealand, GB and Canada. We raced as if we were in an Olympic final. Taking the lead straight away with Germany just behind. At the halfway mark, we were comfortably in the lead with Germany. The 3rd 500 saw the Germans taking half a length on us but we were clearly holding on our 2nd place. We knew that the only thing we had to do was to hold on and keep the hounds behind. With 150 to go and a solid ¾ of a length lead for the 2nd place, I dared to say “we have it” meaning that we should just keep going and not try to do more. But nothing is done until you have crossed the line. The intensity of the race and tiredness suddenly flushed into our veins. One of us caught half a crab and the next stroke our riggers are in the water. Lactic acid did the rest and we could not recover from it. With 5 strokes to go we crossed the line with half the speed we had and the screen announced a 5th place. A Final and a qualification for Rio just vanished for one missed stroke. But when you cross the line after such a race, pain comes from somewhere else. We dug so deep that suddenly the boat becomes the war zone after the battle. It took us 30 minutes to reach our tent. Boat was carried by the staff. Rowers vomiting and barely able to stand up and here comes reality. There will be a B final to race in 2 days with one last chance to qualify for Rio. Top 2 of the “Petite Finale” were to punch their Olympic ticket. Recovery at all cost after 2 races where went down to hell. Heads up and confident that we could do it, we went on the water to fight a last combat. We knew that it was going to be hard, that no one was going to give it to us. But the miracle never happened. We tried, we fought, we threw in there what we had left. The problem was that we didn’t have much left in the tank. After 500m, we clearly ran out of fuel. Batteries were empty and it was impossible to fire up the engines the same way we did in the semi final. We crossed the line in 5th place (11th overall) far away from the last qualifying spot. Frustrating and hard to accept.
Of course there are some positive aspects. We fought well and managed to play against the best at the same speed. We led races. There is an incredible potential in that quad but we failed because of details. And details were very expensive this year! Do we have time to work on those details in the coming 8 months? Hard to say. Where to start? My experience in this boat gives me some good ideas on what we could work. Would it be enough?
I am on my way back to Canada. Back on training on Monday morning and we will know more in the coming weeks. Nothing is set or frozen. I am openminded and motivated to make my Olympic dream come true.

“The adventure goes on...”