Athlete of the Month – February 2015
New Zealand’s Peter Taylor experienced his first international success at under-23 level when he won World Championship gold in the lightweight men’s double sculls back in 2006. In 2008, he teamed up with Storm Uru at the senior level. The duo became World Champions in 2009 and went on to claim a World Championship bronze and silver before making it to the Olympic podium in third at the 2012 Olympic Games. Post London, Taylor switched to the lightweight four. What was meant to be a one-year experience is still going strong.
Peter’s successes and maturity in the sport have led World Rowing to highlight the Kiwi athlete for the month of February.
World Rowing: How did you become involved in rowing?
Peter Taylor: My oldest brother (Simon) joined up with the school team (Wellington College) and they were short a coxswain. I was a small 13-year-old who had just began school there, so I tagged along. It wasn’t until a few years later that I made it from the coxswain seat to a rower’s seat and I haven’t been out of it since.
WR: For five seasons, from 2008 to 2012, you formed a successful crew with Storm Uru. What are some of your best memories from the time you rowed together?
PT: The turning point for us was the World Rowing Cup Lucerne in 2008 where we came in 2nd, before then we had been fighting it out in the B and C Finals, so to claim that silver with Storm made us believe that we had some speed to compete at the top. If 2008 had turned out to be a bad year then I probably would have thrown in the towel. From then on, we both learned and grew together, having some great highs (2009 World Rowing Champs and London Olympics) and lows (2010 World Rowing Champs).
WR: How did the transition from the lightweight double to the lightweight four take place?
PT: The lightweight four was only meant to be a one-year project for me, a different scene. With the departure of Storm, I had some options there for me, I loved sweep rowing during my club years so wanted to give it another go, give myself new and different challenges. I had to prove myself again, treating myself as though I was at the bottom of the rowing pile again and had to work my way back up through results. I treated the pair as though I was in my single, going for that same feeling and it paid off, beating all other pairs in New Zealand (excluding Eric and Hamish!). Then I took that to the four and was greeted by three other eager and willing-to-learn guys as well as a coach allowing me to be involved in how to move the boat. Our quick rise took me by surprise and now it is too good to leave.
WR: What do you like about sculling? What do you like about sweep rowing?
PT: I can’t go past my single; I reckon that if it was an Olympic event that is where I would be. Love that responsibility and knowing it is you and only you who achieve the results or disappointments. Competing with the big guns in training sessions here at Lake Karapiro in the single is a rush, especially when you deal to them a blow. With sweeping, that feeling of hanging off one oar and balancing yourself off your opposite is magic when it is done well, achieving that awesome swinging feeling. In the end, I see myself more of a sculler than a sweep rower.
WR: As the eldest member of New Zealand’s lightweight men’s four, how do you feel your experience in the lightweight double benefits you now?
PT: Hugely. I am much more relaxed and calm now than when I was a young gun in the squad. I used to be quite hot-headed on the water but that didn’t do me any good. Now, being like the older brother in the crew, I can hopefully help in creating the best environment to compete in, both on the edge but in control.
WR: How do you and your crewmates complement one another?
PT: The others bring that eagerness and limitless aspect to the crew. They just keep on going and going, they keep on challenging themselves to see what they can do without that fear or pressure of failure. So I have to hang in there with them and not be embarrassed.
WR: What do you admire most about your main competitors internationally?
PT: Everyone’s work ethic. Everyone knows how hard they have worked to get where they are, things they have passed up on, the hours out in the boat and no one can take that away. So there is a huge amount of respect when you cross that finish line with them.
WR: How would you describe your current coach?
PT: Dave Thompson has been our coach since 2013. I would say he is pretty easy-going but knows how to get a lot out of us. Definitely one for lots of k’s and work. He is also good in getting the most out of us, whether it is my input on the boat feel or making us finish the session that we didn’t think we could get through. He is not afraid to push us to our limits and have us blow up but also recognises that when we have gone too far that we get the best recovery for it.
WR: What is a typical day of training like?
PT: During the off season, it is all about mileage for us, so there would be two aerobic or anaerobic sessions for us a day, morning and afternoon. Then throw in a gym session every second day in the middle of those, with Sundays being our rest day of the week. Outside that you would find me on the physio or massage table or at Pilates or catching up with my sponsors or life admin at home. I am not one to have a midday nap so always like to keep moving.
WR: What is your favourite/least favourite training session?
PT: I am a big fan of the tough steady workouts. The ones where you line up in your single or pair against the other guys and you head off for your U2 session and by the end it is the survival of the best. Each one taking up the speed to drop the other. It’s brutal but so satisfying getting to the end and being there at the top, knowing you had pushed your limits a bit further. The ones that I hate would be the ones where you are injured and sitting on a stationary bike or swimming. Nothing beats rowing for training, so when you are not doing that you are losing ground and I hate losing ground.
WR: What is one of your most beneficial strengths?
PT: My consistency in performances. I really pride myself on delivering at every session and at every race. I would say that I am also pretty hard to be satisfied with a race or training, always wanting more or better results. This is also a weakness at times too. Still learning how to manage that.
WR: What is a weakness you would prefer not having?
PT: A taste for sweets. I can’t just have a taste, I am a sucker when it comes to a bakery or good tasty food, so it is all or nothing for me when I am moving towards my racing weight.
WR: If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, whom would it be and why?
PT: To be honest, a family dinner is the best. When all of us Taylors get together, five of us brothers and sisters and each other’s partners, it is something special. We could go all night and into the next day easily.
WR: What do you do outside of rowing?
PT: To get away from training, walking our dog (Rudi) every night without phone or music is a great way to have fun and appreciate the small things, you can’t be angry seeing your dog try and catch a bird. The golf course is a big draw card but I don’t find myself there often enough so it is more enjoying a great espresso or kicking back with my wife and dog over a fantastic meal.
WR: What are your goals for the coming ten years?
PT: To have an awesome life. Just being newly married, there is a lot to be thankful for. So I am just out there to see how good I can get, how much I can achieve and how much fun I can have doing it. For now, it is in the sport of rowing. Post rowing, I can’t wait to get my teeth stuck into the business world having graduated from University with a degree in commerce and having worked at Deloitte, I have already made steps in that field. So I am looking forward to putting my business skills as well as time and effort to the test once again.