Athlete of the Month - February 2014
The victory pose of Kjetil Borch and Nils Jakob Hoff of Norway winning the 2013 World Rowing Championships men's double sculls appeared on rowing channels around the world. Their elation was unquestionable. This was the first World Championship medal for stroke seat Borch who first raced internationally in 2007 at the World Rowing Junior Championships in Beijing.
Rowing at the same club as his mentor Olaf Tufte, Borch went on to win a European Championship bronze medal and a World Rowing Cup gold in 2012 in the men’s double. Missing out on making the London Olympic A-final was devastating for the duo. Borch came back in 2013 determined to improve all aspects of his life and training. His hard work paid off with another European Championship bronze and, of course, the 2013 World Rowing Championship title.
At just 24 years old, Kjetil Borch has come a long way in mastering the sport of rowing. For we are pleased to bring you Borch as our Athlete of the Month.
World Rowing: How did you start rowing?
Kjetil Borch: I started rowing in 2001 because my mum and dad saw an ad in the local newspaper. I tried for a couple of months, but all the rowers were six, seven or eights years older than me, so I skipped out. But the main reason was the social aspect. A lot of my friends started rowing and I was playing handball and kickboxing. They said 'hey why don’t you try it again.' Here I am ten years later.
WR: Where are you currently training?
KB: I am currently training in two places, in Oslo with the rest of my teammates on the national team and also at Horton Rowing Club together with Olaf (Tufte)and a couple of other friends.
WR: How is the indoor season going for you?
KB: It’s going pretty well actually. Last week we arrived from Italy. We had been there for three weeks in a high altitude camp mostly doing cross country skiing. Since the middle of December I’ve only had five or six complete ergo sessions. It was quite surprising that I managed to go 5:48 (for 2000m) at the Indoor Championships in Norway just a couple of days after we arrived from Italy.
WR: What do you prefer, 5k or 2k?
KB: Prefer? Umm, it has to be a 2k.
WR: Are you currently a full time rower?
KB: Yes and no. I've just became a part-time student. Right now I am studying a master’s degree in Maritime Management.
WR: What can you say about your coach Johan Flodin?
KB: The great thing about Johan is that he’s a great leader, he’s not a boss. There is a big difference between being a boss and being a great leader. We just trust him so much both in his abilities to lead the team, but also in setting up a training schedule and thinking about the technique in training as well.
WR: What are your goals at the moment?
KB: Right now I am thinking about the European Championships, which will be our substitute for the first World Cup, as we’re not going to Sydney. Of course we are aiming for gold, but Nils and I have only been rowing two times together since the final in Chungju (2013 World Rowing Championships). But that’s how we do it in Norway when all the lakes are frozen. My goal is the European Champs for the moment, but of course setting a World Best Time in Amsterdam (2014 World Rowing Championships) wouldn’t be too bad either.
WR: In 2013 in Lucerne you said you were trying to pick yourself up after finishing seventh at the 2012 Olympics, how do you think the 2013 season affected you going forward?
KB: 2013 confirmed a couple things for me. First of all, now I 100 per cent trust the training programme that we are doing. It (the season) gave me more confidence in our coach and now I know it’s possible. The seventh place in the Olympics was such a low point for both Nils and I. Picking up from that and trying to perform better, train better and do every single thing in my life better has made me a much stronger athlete. Now I can do the little things and I know that it’s the small things that make the difference. It’s the small things that will give me results.
WR: Who is your biggest rivalry going into the 2014 season?
KB: I think the Lithuanians. Well, they were actually quite happy with the silver medal, but they are two big guys and they have a lot of physical potential and they are also quite young. If they find a kind of 'key' which we found after Lucerne (World Cup), they could be the harshest rivals. But you cannot forget New Zealand as well. You have Joseph Sullivan coming back as well as Michael Arms who is back and he is quite hungry for revenge. There are quite a lot of guys out there who are blood thirsty and thinking about the gold medal.
WR: How would you say that coach Johan has affected your training?
KB: Johan has given us a lot more confidence than the previous coach. He is able to convince us in thinking that our programme is the best programme in the world and we’re doing what is right. But he is also analysing everything we’re doing as we go. He includes the good things and the things that don’t show results, he removes from our training schedule.
WR: You and Nils (Jakob Hoff) are set to compete in the double this year?
KB: This year definitely, next year we don’t know. Olaf (Tufte) has to make some improvements in the single, getting his technique on the right track. I assume he’ll try to get in the double next year. So the pressure is on us to try to perform as well as possible this year and to not get kicked out by Olaf. But who knows, maybe Olaf does something revolutionary in the single and beats the whole field and continues in the single, you never know.
WR: More specifically than the 2013 season, how did winning the World Championships affect you?
KB: After becoming a World Champion there is a slight chance of getting a little bit cocky. It is easy to get blind and trust the things you did the last year. So I just have to develop myself as an athlete and also look at every single part of my life and try to make it more effective, more economic. I try to make everything I do better. I am not just sitting on my butt and thinking I will win because I won last year.
WR: You mentioned that you found a “key” after Lucerne, what was it?
KB: The key for us was digging up the ground, the foundation of our technique and taking a good look at it. We saw what our technique was based on, we got the overview of what we were doing and we intensified the analysis together with Johan.
And, of course, after Lucerne we had a week off. We did everything we wanted, went to concerts, stayed with friends and didn’t think that much about rowing. We still trained a little, but we really had a small vacation. When we came back after a week we were so thirsty to do things right again. We were like, we have got to make this better but without stressing. It was like pressing the fast forward button, only in slow motion. It sounds strange, but that’s what it felt like.
WR: You struggled with injury in 2013, how has it been going this year?
KB: After the World Championships I had a couple of ok weeks. We had the National Championships and I was doing pretty great with one of the fastest times in Norway’s history.
But after that I struggled a lot with sickness. From October to the end of December, I couldn’t train at all. If I could get half an hour on the bike with a heart rate of 110, I was more than happy. So I had been pretty low down and quite frustrated. But after December things have been going pretty well. Actually, really, really, really great. I also have trouble with both of my knees, but that part is going well too. I feel like I got a fresh start in January.
For more updates from Kjetil and the Norwegian team, written in English, visit his Facebook page here.