In 2004 I hung up my oars. We were on a training camp in Hazelwinkel in Belgium, preparing for the World Cup season with Münich that weekend. It was me, Sinead Jennings, Niamh ni Cheilleachair and Heather Boyle if I remember correctly. I had been relegated to the single scull and, not happy…at all. Struggling to make the 59kg weight, every morning I stood on the scales and saw 62.5kg. I was asking myself “what is it all about?” We failed to qualify for the Olympics, and I had been in a training regime since I was 15 years old.
For those of you who fantasiize about the life of a professional athlete, it is not all it seems! For me, the pressure was something I got tired of handling. I felt like it was a constant competition. Living in close quarters with two other rowers, who are your teammates, but at the same time, the enemy.Tying to be friends with those you would go to battle with is a really hard situation to be in. Then, sitting at the starting line of an important race, a World Cup, a National Team Trial, a World Championship – so nervous that you can’t stop shaking – so much that the oars are wobbling in the water.
3,2,1…green light GO! Yikes. I would think – “keep it under control – do the minimum to stay in touch and save it for the last 500mtrs, thats where the race is won”
Knowing that the outcome of those last 500mtrs will determine how much money and support you will get over the coming year was very tough.
And now, here I am, preparing to race my first rowing race after a break of 10 years from the sport! What is the difference? I do this for fun. I love it. I have found a way back to the sport I took up when I was 14 years old. I love the feeling of the water under me, the peace it gives me for those couple of hours in the evening, the people at the rowing club are like family, young and old and all of them, rowers.
What about the weight? Let’s see on the day – it looks ok, I wake up, stand on the scales and usually see 60kg. If I time it right, making 59kg shouldn’t be too much of a squeeze. On the 12th of July I will race in the Irish National Championships, in the Intermediate Double Sculls with Monika Dukarska under Killorglin Rowing Club and that afternoon, in the lightweight single sculls. I don’t know what my speed is like as I haven’t had any values (I have been training on a river so it hasn’t been easy to get real values) but going by feel – the boat is moving well, the stroke rates are there and well – lets see how it goes on the day!
No pressure – just how I like it.