2.30am, my trip had begun. After not much sleep, I was rushed to the club to meet the other boys – all buzzing with excitement to leave for Japan. This was going to be the longest time away from home; 2 weeks’ training in Japan with the Japanese National team, soaking up the culture and getting a sniff of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, followed by 2 weeks in Slovenia, honing our skills in the cold clear water before heading off to Romania for 1 week with the competition on the last 4 days.
Japan is the most outrageous country I have ever been to. JDM cars, raw food, fast trains and chopsticks! We trained in Komatsu Ishikawa, where very few people speak English. However, the hospitality that we received was second to none and we had no problem communicating with a mixture of sign language, funny faces and odd noises. The 2 weeks flew by and it was such an honour when all the Japanese athletes went to the airport to see us off.
After many hours in the air we arrived to blue skies, clear cold water and old mates. Slovenia. Training continued, however U23 team was definitely more focused on why we were there.
Business time came around quickly. We arrived in Romania where we would be competing against the best in the world. But first we had to get from the airport to the hotel in one piece! Our van driver must have thought he was a race car driver and everyone else on the road also thought they were race car drivers. I witnessed two car crashes in a week. But I had to stay focused; the months of freezing morning trainings in New Zealand will come down to the race in 2 days.
We had the current U23 European Champs, Russia, in our heat. 1st place in the heat goes straight through to A final. We accepted the fact that would probably have to race a semi. Nerves were high. I remember lining up and loving the feeling, thinking about all the things I had done in my life to reach this point. The gun went, we got to the half way mark, 250m, with a full K4 boat length on the Russians! We went for it and got the win! NZ U23 straight through to the A final! We ended up coming 9th in the A final which is a great result for us. It wasn’t that we had a bad race it was just that the other teams were faster. We aim to drop 3 seconds on our personal best for next year, which is very achievable – thus placing us in medal territory.
Over all it was the best trip I have has so far and I am really excited for what the future holds.