Hodge’s year-by-year focus could lead him all way to Rio

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Double Olympic rowing champion Andrew Triggs Hodge has defied the wave of retiring London heroes by refusing to rule out another bid for gold in Rio in 2016.

The stroke of the men’s four, who steered the flagship boat to gold in Beijing and London, has returned to competitive training because at 33 he recognises he is at the now-or-never stage of his career.

Raised in Hebden, near Grassington, the oarsman will be 37 by the time of what would be his fourth Olympics in Rio in 2016. While he is not saddling himself with the mental and physical pressure of fully committing to a four-year cycle, he is not yet ready to follow the likes of fellow champions Ben Ainslie, Rebecca Adlington and Sir Chris Hoy by heading off into the sunset.

“You can easily slip into the pigeon hole of you’re either doing another Olympics or you’re not,” Hodge told the Yorkshire Post. “So right now I’m trying to keep the focus on year-by-year goals. I don’t want to get too bogged down with the whole four-year cycle. We’ll see how it goes. I’m enjoying it for what it is at this moment.”

Even though he is playing it down, just by getting back into a boat at the start of the Olympic 
cycle is a tacit acknowledgment that Rio is on his mind.

It is entirely feasible that Hodge could put his heart and soul into trying to win a third gold medal in four years. Sir Steve Redgrave was 38 when he won his fifth and final Olympic title while Greg Searle was 40 when he won bronze in the men’s eight in London.

A natural-born winner, Hodge has lived his life greeting silver and bronze as defeat, and although enormous sacrifice would be required if he was to win another gold, the early indications are he is willing to go down that road again.

“Even if I went to Rio and got a silver I’d still come away feeling positive,” said the adopted Yorkshireman. “Yes, I would be disappointed, but proud in what I’ve achieved and I’d be able to hold my head high. We all want to win but as long as you’re doing your best and are doing it for the right reasons, that’s all you can do.”

Hodge resumed training last week, with the World Cup season due to begin in March and the world championships in Korea in the summer his only tangible goal.

The presence of British rowing’s notorious taskmaster Jurgen Grobler on the banks of the squad’s Caversham water left Hodge in no doubt that there can be no half-measures if he is to prolong his career

“If you’re training with Jurgen you’re not messing around. It’s not a game,” said Hodge. “At the minute I’m feeling terrible after two sessions so it won’t be until after Christmas that I push on in earnest. It’s only been a week and a half and I don’t want to burn myself out. It really is a day-by-day process. I don’t want to put myself under any pressure to perform right now, because after the new year, I know I have to perform.”

Hodge’s big call: Page 6