Road to Rio - Andrew Triggs Hodge back in the hunt for gold crowning glory

GOLDEN MOMENT: Great Britain's Men's Four of (left to right) Andrew Triggs Hodge, Tom James, Pete Reed and Alex Gregory celebrate winning gold in the final back in 2012. Picture: Stephen Pond/PA
GOLDEN MOMENT: Great Britain's Men's Four of (left to right) Andrew Triggs Hodge, Tom James, Pete Reed and Alex Gregory celebrate winning gold in the final back in 2012. Picture: Stephen Pond/PA
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Dealing with the painful foresight of watching the Rio Olympics from afar has pushed two-time gold medallist Andrew Triggs Hodge back into contention of becoming one of Great Britain’s most successful rowers of all time.

The 37-year-old has endured the frustration of 18 months away from international competition but he has rediscovered his power to earn a seat in the men’s eight.

Illness forced the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 men’s four champion to sit out the entire season in 2015 and the prospect of lining up on the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas water looked a distant possibility.

The Hebden rower has also had to battle with his mind but conquering both illness and psychological fears have put him back on course to joining an elite list of British Olympians with three gold medals.

“I have learnt a lot of things about myself in the last few months,” Triggs Hodge told The Yorkshire Post.

“The illness definitely opened my mind to the possibility that I wouldn’t come back. I have always been a bit of an optimist but I gave myself the option of what I wanted to do.

“I made sure that if I was coming back, I was coming back for the right reason. That is part of the reason why this year has been more positive than negative. I haven’t feared losing.

“There have been moments of anger and frustration but they have been in the time off from training.

“Once I had dealt with that and got my head around what I was wanting to achieve, then it was business as usual and working towards winning another gold.”

Being sat on the sidelines is not something Triggs Hodge has been used to in an Olympic cycle.

From winning his first world championships gold medal in 2005, his career has been one of glittering highs.

Following in the footsteps of Sir Steve Redgrave, Matthew Pinsent and James Cracknell, the 37-year-old has carried the mantle of British men’s success in the coxless four over the last two Olympiads, including the golden highlight in front of home supporters in London four years ago.

Team GB enjoyed a prosperous time at Eton Dorney with four golds, including a first in history for Triggs Hodge’s new boat, the men’s eight – the flagship event on the water.

But past glories will mean little on the start line at Rio and British head coach Jürgen Grobler, from Germany, has set an expectation of beating the nine medals from four years ago.

“We set a very high bar in London but Jurgen has been very ambitious,” said Triggs Hodge.

“The whole team has been working really hard to make sure we achieve at least what we did in 2012.

“Obviously, there’s a different set of athletes and a lot of things have changed.

“We don’t have the same number of sponsors that we used to but we will all be able to come home knowing we have put everything in.”

Triggs Hodge and his men’s eight team-mates had their first major speed test ahead of this summer’s Games at the European Championships in Brandenburg, Germany last weekend.

But it was an unhappy outing for the British boat, which also included Leeds rower Paul Bennett, as they floundered behind hosts Germany and silver medallists Russia.

On choppy waters, the British boat finished almost four seconds behind the victorious Germans and bronze was only secured in a photo finish over Belarus.

“We were pretty disappointed,” said Triggs Hodge.

“We don’t really encounter that sort of wind very much and it’s definitely a possibility that we will have those conditions in Rio.

“It’ was a big lesson and a big learning curve.

Meanwhile, North Yorkshire rower Zoe Lee, from Richmond, stroked the women’s eight to a promising gold medal ahead of Rio medal contenders Netherlands, Russia and Romania. The British boat smashed past long-time leaders Netherlands in the final 10m to win by half a second.

“Everyone did their job and stayed calm even though we were a length down”, said Lee.

“It’s a privilege to row with these women.”

Former World Junior Champion Jess Leyden formed one quarter of the women’s quad sculls that finished fifth ahead of the crucial Olympic qualification regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland later this month.