Rio 2016: Andrew Triggs Hodge embarks on emotional crusade to win third Olympic gold – as family stays home due to Zika virus

Great Britain's Andrew Triggs Hodge kisses his medal after winning gold during the mens four final at the Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire.
Great Britain's Andrew Triggs Hodge kisses his medal after winning gold during the mens four final at the Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire.
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THERE would be an outpouring of emotion should Hebden-raised Andrew Triggs Hodge help the men’s eight to rowing gold at Rio 2016.

For starters, the 37-year-old is bidding for his third successive Olympic triumph – a feat which would take him only two short of rowing legend Sir Steve Redgrave.

Success would have also arrived after a significant amount of adversity with Triggs Hodge having missed a whole year in 2015 with glandular fever.

Then there’s the fact that the adopted Yorkshireman might just be able to lay to rest the ghost of Athens 2004 in the ultimate style – 12 years on from finishing a disappointing ninth at his first Olympics.

There could be a multitude of reasons to pop open the bubbly, but the ultimate celebration would be saved for home where the oarsman has reluctantly had to leave his beloved and pregnant wife Eeke.

Triggs Hodge could provide one of the stories of the Games if successful in the men’s coxed eight on Monday, alongside two Yorkshireman in Leeds rower Paul Bennett and former University of York student Tom Ransley, plus Scott Durant, Matt Gotrel, Matt Langridge, Pete Reed and William Satch.

Paul Bennett

Paul Bennett

The octet will bring with them a sizeable supporting contingent but the much-discussed threat of the Zika virus has meant Triggs Hodge’s hugely supportive wife Eeke has been left at home.

A family of three is about to extend further with two-year-old son Sebastian set to be given a new brother or sister.

With Zika particularly dangerous for pregnant women, there was never any discussion in the Triggs Hodge household that his better half would travel.

Neither is there any hiding just what his wife’s absence will mean to a rower who continues to wear his heart on his sleeve in search of an amazing third successive Olympic gold medal. Triggs Hodge explained: “We’ve got another little one on the way – the next one is due in October – and because of that Eeke, my wife, can’t come out to Rio with the whole Zika stuff.

This eight is a fantastic collection of individual who have come together

Andrew Triggs-Hodge

“She was there for both of my gold medals so far so for her not to be there, I’m really gutted.

“She’s obviously a hugely important person in my life and to be able to share those moments with your nearest is part of it.

“The first emotion you have when you cross a line having won a gold medal is relief and the main thing is that because you have sacrificed a lot.

“You have asked a lot of the nearest people to you but you can finally say it was worth it. A big part of those medals are hers with everything she has been through at London and Beijing.

“I’m going to have to wait for a few days but for her not to be there and not to experience the thrill and the excitement of it all, I’m really sad about that but we just can’t take the risk.

“We understand the risk with Zika is low and there are things you can do to minimise it. But, Christ, if there’s any risk at all when we can turn around and say that we could have made that choice then there’s no question at all.”

On the contrary, even as a three-time Olympian and double gold medallist, Triggs Hodge admits that in 2015 there was a very real question mark over whether he would even be fit enough to board the plane to Rio.

The British star first suffered from glandular fever in 2012 – before going on to win gold at London 2012 – but the oarsman was hit with a return of the illness in early 2015, forcing him to miss the remainder of the season, including that September’s World Championships in Aiguebelette, France.

“Last year provided a pretty big question,” admitted Triggs Hodge, who was born in Buckinghamshire but grew up in Yorkshire.

“I kind of had what I believed was a recurrence of glandular fever and I had to take the whole year off.

“I came back to training, with the support of my coach and with the good support of the lottery and the team and started that process of building my physiology back up to speed.

“It took a long time but, as I worked through the winter, I was gaining a lot more confidence in my body and I started to see my previous standard of performances.

“So looking towards the trialing process in the Spring, I was having a lot of confidence and again, together with the coach and the national lottery, I managed to make that jump and get myself back into the team. I am very proud to be selected for the Games.”

His fourth selection also returns Triggs Hodge full circle and back to the discipline in which his Olympics experiences began – in the men’s eight in Athens 2004.

That outing failed to go according to plan but he responded in the ultimate style by winning gold in the coxless four at both Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

“Athens was a massive learning process for me,” he admitted.

“It taught me in the most brutal manner some of the most valuable things I have learnt in rowing.

“Is it about laying demons to rest? I’ve had success in the eights since, such as 2013 when we won the World Championship and some other races which aren’t as important as the Olympics but still hold some big sway.

“But I know what we can do in the eights, I know what this team is capable of and, to be honest, all of the lessons I have learnt are in my past now.

“I’m not going to be taking Athens on to the start line, in exactly the same way I won’t take London or Beijing. That is in my past.

“It’s all about moving forward.”

There are now just three days until that opportunity presents itself, in the heats stage of the men’s eight held at Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas in Copacabana.

The final of the event takes place next Saturday – and with Bennett and Ransley in the same boat, Triggs-Hodge can see every possibility of three Yorkshire golds being captured.

He reasoned: “This eight is a fantastic collection of individuals who have come together and shown some extraordinary performances and I think in our last race in Poznan we got close to showing the world that.

“But we still have another gear to go into and I am just really excited about delivering that race which I think people are going to say, and I’d like them to, ‘I think that was the race of the Olympics.’ If we get it right, it’s going to be devastating, it’s going to be awesome.

“There’s three of us from Yorkshire so we are solid as a rock!”