Blog – Andrew Triggs Hodge: Nothing’s ever the same in the life of an Olympic rower

Hedben’s Andrew Triggs Hodge won a gold medal in the men’s four in Beijing. At London 2012 he will look to successfully defend his title. In the run-up to the Games, and during the Olympics, Hodge will blog exclusively for the Yorkshire Post, continuing here with the origins of his work ethic.

Wednesday, July 18

To this point my career in rowing has been a crazy, insular, not very exciting journey.

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While it’s transformed my life beyond recognition (for me it’s everything), to the outside world I imagine it’s about as significant as the time Joe Bloggs ran that marathon that time… if you see what I mean?

While I’m sitting in my hotel room, the Tour de France is on the television and Bradley Wiggins remains in the yellow jersey.

Football racism rumbles on and we’re still in the wake of Britain’s tennis hero finally maturing and delivering on his potential.

So what can I write now that would make any difference?

The problem is that as the days count down to the Olympics, my focus becomes narrower and narrower.

With each session we hone our technical ideas towards a unique plan, born from hours of training, criticism, learning and assessing.

With each day, I cut out more and more of ‘life’, and become the essence of an athlete.

More hangs on each moment specific to performance. Is this the right food? Should I be resting or walking? Was my warm-up right? Am I wearing the right media shirt? etc etc.

Writing about this stuff is either boring or ‘secret’! There really is very little to report.

But it’s times like these when put into context of the impending race, that the whole perception of my sport turns around.

When even the most attention-deficit kids will hang on each word, providing we have a gold medal at the end of the story.

We’re no longer just guys who row boats, but we have dedication, sacrifice, focus. That’s what is happening now. This is what makes performance athletes and getting that right makes champions.

It’s sometimes natural to think about where it all came from. Was it the first time I saw a boat? I don’t think so.

When I first had a goal? Or something I felt pride in doing?

This makes me think of one of my first paid jobs, a ‘gofer’ on a building site developing the village hall in Grassington.

For some reason I went at that job with a determination I didn’t have for anything else.

I had no idea what I was doing, all I did was stuff. I just got given jobs and I did them. But I tried to do them well, or fast.

Simple as that, I just wanted to do it well.

By the end of the week I was spent. I’d never worked so hard. Limping through the last few hours, hungry, sore, and spent.

That was for just a few pounds, but it also gave me an idea. “This is what I’m going to do, this is how I’m going to live my life”.

School and exams don’t work for me, so I’m just going to work hard, and try and do it well.

Now fast forward 19 years, sitting in a hotel room contemplating this. I’m amazed at how nothing’s changed, not really anyway. I’m still just working hard, just trying to do it well.

The arena is very different, but myself, the man who’ll sit in the stroke seat of the GB Olympic men’sfour, is just the same kid who found pride in working hard.

Wednesday, June 27

This Games is like no other I’ve been to.

But then again, Beijing was nothing like Athens either.

Each Olympics presents new opportunities, new pitfalls, highs and lows, and indeed each final phase of preparation is vastly different.

I can take a few things from each of my previous experiences to try to help my run-up to these Games, but for the most part it’s a constant process of adapting and evolving what I know into a new environment, team, or occasion.

But that, I think, is the key to repeating success. Not finding what works and religiously sticking to it.

For instance I am currently up a mountain in Austria, I can actually hear cow bells as I write this!

We’ve been to this camp many times, but each time something is different, a certain aspect that Jurgen Grobler, our coach, needs to change.

Whether it’s a new angle for training, or adapting the programme to the new team’s strengths and weaknesses, no two camps are ever the same.

However, what lies over the horizon is huge, intimidating, and equally, our ultimate goal.

The Olympics, always the same in name, but never the same, is the one event we aim for during the whole four-year Olympiad cycle.

It’s our one chance to justify every success and failure, every sacrifice, all the pain and glory along the way. So much hangs on getting it right.

The only way I can deal with this is to bury myself in training. There is so much going on back home, that it’s actually a relief to get away from it all.

For as the saying goes ‘miles make champions’ not who enjoys the run-up the most.

I’m sure there are loads of athletes who enjoy the different aspects of the run-up to the Games more than I do, and I hope they get their chance at Olympic gold too.

I remember being particularly put-out during the kitting-out day last week, which was three hours too long!!! Because for me, every chance to train is a valuable opportunity not to be missed, and every chance to rest is just as important.

I wish it was easier, but it’s not, it’s the Olympic Games.

The biggest race of my life.

Keep checking the website for more blog updates from Yorkshire Olympian Andrew Triggs Hodge.