Belief; the final ingredient of success?

As this year’s World Rowing Championships at Lake Karapiro in New Zealand began, the air in the British camp was perhaps a little muted by the news that Andy Holmes had sadly passed away. This was a tragic loss and one commemorated by the athletes who wore black ribbons in his honour. Andy Holmes was a catalyst for the British Rowing phenomenon, so it was perhaps fitting that the performances and results reflected the work Andy completed during his career.

The conditions at Karapiro were at times, challenging, to say the least. However, this didn’t appear to hold back certain British protagonists. The lightweight men’s double scull, Olympic champions in Beijing, announced their return to international competition with a nearly faultless performance. They went off quick, got quicker and then made sure of victory! Job done.

For the women’s double scull, a similar story unfolded. They never looked threatened and at times it was hard to believe that this was a World Championships. The story that everyone wants to see has to be Katherine Grainger’s Olympic gold in London in two year’s time. Based on the performance of this boat in New Zealand, I hope I am not tempting fate by suggesting that this could be it!?

The other performance I wanted to raise was the men’s pair of Andy Triggs-Hodge and Peter Reed. Olympic champions in the four, they had raced the New Zealanders 11 times prior to the final and had lost on all 11 occasions. A great example to young athletes of never giving up no matter how hard it gets. This time, however, they weren’t prepared to play second fiddle to the world champions and gave them a race to be proud of. Sadly the story of redemption was not to be (yet) and they were overhauled in the final metres.

So, three fine performances and three great examples of what competition is all about. So why two golds and one silver; what made the difference? Many things contribute to becoming a champion but I would like to offer that little thing called ‘belief’ as being critical here.

Coming in to the last 500 metres, the British pair did not expect to still hold the lead and while they didn’t panic, they also didn’t finish them off. They didn’t yet believe that they could beat them and become world champions. They had done the training, they had made the technical improvements, they had their tactics sorted, they were mentally tough, now all they needed to do was believe.

They might not have believed then that they could win; but I’ll bet they do now…

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