Athlete of the Month - August 2011
Hannah Every-Hall is one of Australia’s top medal hopefuls for the 2012 Olympic Games. She is also a sports nutritionists, a wife and a mother. Hannah is World Rowing’s Athlete of the Month for August and she tells us about battling through illness, having kids and getting back to the top of the sport.
World Rowing: Where are you at present?
Hannah Every-Hall: Varese (Italy), it’s an amazing new training base for Australians training in Europe. There’s also canoe-kayak here and athletics, sailing and cycling. We’ll be staying here right up to the World Champs, until 22nd August. We’ve been here since the Lucerne World Cup (July).
WR: How did you get your start in rowing?
H. E.-H.: I started a very, very long time ago in a country town in Victoria on a 400m lake. It was more social than competitive. I got more serious when I went to university in Melbourne where I was studying sports psychology. I enjoyed it so I continued. Before that my main sport was netball.
WR: Success seemed to come quickly to you?
H. E.-H.: Yes, I was very lucky, 18 months into it I made the Nations Cup (under-23) team in the lightweight double and we won.
WR: You then had gaps in your international career, the biggest being from 2002 to 2010. Why was this?
H. E.-H.: I got sick leading up to the 2004 Olympic trials and then I decided to start a family. I have two boys (Harrison, 4, and Charlie, 2).
WR: I understand that you had a severe reaction to your cat.
H. E.-H.: Yes, I had an anaphylactic shock during the Olympic trials. It’s called exercise induced anaphylactic. My cat had gone from being an outdoor cat to an indoor cat and I had no idea that I was allergic. Once I was on medication I got over it quickly (it causes swelling of the airways). But then I had a problem with asthma.
WR: Did you keep active during this time out of the sport?
H. E.-H.: I always liked being active but I didn’t do anything serious. I did some coaching.
WR: How soon after having your kids did you start training again?
H. E.-H.: I was coaching masters rowers and I’d jump into boats and I competed at local masters regattas. That’s what made me decide that I wanted to row competitively again. My husband (Michael) said I should maybe row at the national championships and see how I do.
WR: What do your kids know about your rowing?
H. E.-H.: I think Harrison is starting to know more. He’s saying, ‘I don’t want to go to the regatta’. And he’ll say, ‘you’re training to be the best in the world aren’t you mummy?’ The family will be here (in Varese) for two weeks. Then they will leave so I can be selfish in the last week of training. We go into ‘lock down’ before the World Champs.
WR: I understand Rowing Australia has helped with expenses so that athletes with families can come and visit in Europe?
H. E.-H.: Yes, this is the first year that there’s been funding for the families. It’s funding my family to come over and visit. We couldn’t have afforded it otherwise. We’re away (from home) for three months. It’s a very long time to be away. If my family hadn’t come over I would have wanted to go back (to Australia) about half-way through the three months.
WR: When you’ve been training and raising your boys how have you dealt with sleep deprivation?
H. E.-H.: I just battle through it. Everyone has challenges like other athletes study or work. I think you just have to roll with the punches and do the best you can. We all have challenges and it’s really what a deal you want to make of it. My husband is fantastic when I’m in a heavy training block he’ll get up in the night. We also have help from a university student and the grandparents.
WR: Were there any sporting mothers that you got inspiration from?
H. E.-H.: Not really, I just always felt that I had unfinished business so I wanted to see what I could do. I knew about the Romanian women having families and getting support to continue rowing. I knew about this from our Australian coach (from Romania), Adrian David. He said you can’t do it in Australia. I wanted to prove him wrong!
World Rowing: What has been your hardest training session so far this month?
Hannah Every-Hall: Different stages of a training block bring different sessions. I’m feeling pretty bushed today after a tough session of 3 x 3km rating 26, with a racing start middle and finish. But each session brings its own challenges. It is rewarding when you get through it really well and you see yourself improve from week to week. That’s the aim of the game!
WR: Have you been doing any cross-training?
H. E.-H.: We do a bit of cross training: weights and cycling predominately.
WR: Your family just visited. What was your four-year-old’s impression on what you are doing?
H. E.-H.: It was wonderful having my family here, although it took a little adjusting to being Mum again after five weeks of just worrying about myself only! They made me smile lots and really appreciate what I am doing again. It was good timing in the training block.
My four-year-old loved being here and eating pizza and gelato (his two favourite foods in Australia let alone Italy!). Both Harry (4) and Charlie (2) loved having Mum and Dad around together. We did a few sightseeing things and took lots of photos which was fabulous. Harry did ask if we could live in Italy. The lifestyle is different to ours in Australia; it suits us to a tee!
Oh I actually remember something funny Harry said to me. “Mum, how long until the Olympics?” I replied “350 days or so, why?” Harry says with a smile on his face: “Ahh, that’s good then Mum, only 350 days until I get a baby brother or sister!” We (my husband and I) mentioned about a year or so ago to a friend that we were considering having another child after the Olympics, we couldn’t believe he remembered!
WR: What will you miss most now that they are gone?
H. E.-H.: They have now gone, they were only here for two weeks, and it seemed to fly. I definitely miss the cuddles and kisses the most, and them telling me that they loved me. But it is now down to crunch time, so it is good for me and Alice (my amazing doubles partner) to become selfish again and prepare to the best of our ability.
WR: How will your family back in Australia be watching the World Champs?
H. E.-H.: My husband, sons and mother and father will all be in Bled (they are holidaying in the UK at present). I have three elder sisters who are all married and a younger brother plus all my in-laws. Unfortunately they are spread right across Australia and won’t be able to watch it together. One of my sisters actually lives in Scotland, so is at least in the right time zone.
I am not sure if it will live on pay TV in Australia like it was last year. If not, they will all watch it on race tracker on the World Rowing website.
WR: Is there any race at the World Champs that you really want to see?
H. E.-H.: I actually love watching all the Australian crews. We all train together so you ride the peaks and troughs with them all, so you want to see everyone do really well. I especially love watching the lightweight men's four as it is such an amazing race, always close and very tactical. Amazing.
WR: Where can you be found in the hour before a big race?
H. E.-H.: Warming up, stretching, laughing with the Aussie team.
WR: If a novice rower were to ask you ‘what does it take to be a top athlete?’ what advice would you give?
H. E.-H.: Apart from the obvious (hard work, discipline and dedication), ensure you are doing it for yourself and that you love what you are doing. Talk to and listen to as many people as you can. Surround yourself with positive people, and trust yourself.
WR: Do you have any sporting (or other) heroes?
H. E.-H.: I take a lot of inspiration from a number of people for different reasons. You can learn a lot from everyone. They range from my husband and sisters to Drew Ginn and Robert Harvey (Australian Rules Footballer). I am even amazed at what comes out of my son’s mouth, the innocence.
WR: What’s your current favourite indulgence?
H. E.-H.: Being in Italy it would have to be the Gelato.
WR: What are you looking forward to most after the World Champs are over?
H. E.-H.: A holiday with my family with no time commitments. Giving my children and husband my attention without always being tired from training!
WR: How do you see your upcoming year planning out?
H. E.-H.: Once I get back to Australia (a week after the Worlds finish), it will be back into training again, in preparation for the Olympic trials. Then heads down, tails up, as we prepare for the amazing event of the Olympic Games.