Birthdate15 Sep 1991
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Athlete of the Month - April 2016
Constantine Louloudis had a perfect season in 2015. He was part of the British men’s eight that won two World Rowing Cup gold medals and the World Rowing Championship title. He also won the Oxford vs Cambridge University Boat Race for the fourth time as part of the Oxford University Dark Blue Boat.
Louloudis first appeared on the World Rowing stage in 2009 as a junior. He won gold in the men’s four at the World Rowing Junior Championships and then went on to become a world under-23 Champion in the men’s pair in 2011 before racing to bronze in the eight at the London 2012 Olympic Games as a 20-year-old.
After taking a year off in 2013, he returned to the British men’s eight in 2014. As he prepares for Rio, however, he hopes to race in another boat class at the 2016 Olympic Games.
World Rowing: You began rowing at Eton College in London. What was the rowing environment like?
Constantine Louloudis: I can’t imagine a better introduction to the sport. At Eton there were lots of keen and motivated young rowers, a top-flight coaching staff and world class facilities. The coaches, who were almost all full-time teachers, made sure that the programme fitted around schoolwork so that we enjoyed, rather than resented, training. And they created a competitive environment where we were encouraged to work hard and push on but were careful that we didn’t over-train or get tired of it.
WR: You have a degree in classics from Oxford University. What is it that fascinates you most about this area of study?
CL: Probably linguistics and philology. By learning and comparing different ancient languages, like Latin, Greek and Sanskrit, we can reconstruct the one proto-language, spoken anywhere between ten and 40 thousand years ago, from which they all (along with modern English, French etc) descended.
WR: What were the challenges and rewards of having to balance training and studying?
CL: Trying to read around a topic and write a 2500 word essay every three days while training twice a day was unforgiving. There were a lot of days when the only time that wasn’t spent training or working was in the minibus to and from the boathouse. And long periods in the winter when it seemed unending. The reward is coming through that with a Boat Race win and a degree.
WR: What is it you like most about being part of a team sport?
CL: The best part is sharing experiences along the way, especially the big wins. It’s much more fun to be able to reminisce with a group of friends about a shared achievement and it’s great to come away from a project with a new group of friends.
WR: What do you find most demanding about the sport of rowing?
CL: Putting together a flat-out performance. The mentality needed to execute a good race under pressure isn’t something that can be taught. I think each athlete has to learn it themselves.
WR: What would you say are some of the most important factors that come into play in making a boat go faster?
CL: To get fitter it’s important to know your own physiology and to train hard but in the right way. As far as technique is concerned, there are many ways to skin a cat. What’s important is that a crew has the same idea of the technical model they are trying to replicate. It obviously helps to have skillful, adaptable athletes.
WR: In your opinion, what are your main strengths and weaknesses?
CL: My main strength is my natural physiology. I got lucky at birth. It seems I don’t produce as much lactic acid as most people, which means I can maintain a high intensity for longer. I also back myself to put together a good race and to hold fast to what I consider the main technical points. A weakness might be my max power, which is unremarkable.
WR: You’ve had a number of different coaches from your time at Eton College, Oxford University and on the British Rowing Team. How did each of them contribute to developing you as an athlete?
CL: My school coach, Alex Henshilwood was the first to show me what rowing is all about. I still value what he taught me, namely that it’s not all about winning. Much of it is about personal improvement, friendships and experiences. Sean Bowden, the Oxford head coach, gave me my technical model and also made me think much more about the mentality of racing and the science of training. And I think Jürgen Grobler’s (British men's coach) influence was to make me, along with all his athletes, harder and more able to carry on training in spite of fatigue or doubt.
WR: You won the Boat Race four times as part of the Oxford University Blue Boat, twice as stroke. What are your strongest memories of your time in this boat?
CL: I have two memories that are the most potent. (The races are long, after all, and it all blends into one.) The first was around the end of the Chiswick Eyot in the 2013 Boat Race (around nine minutes in) and beginning to think that if I went any harder I wouldn’t make the finish, but if we didn’t push on then our bend would run out and Cambridge would get their advantage and come through us in the last four minutes. In the end we just about squeezed out enough advantage and held on to win. The second was Cambridge’s crab in the 2014 race. They just dropped like a stone and we stuck the boot in at the same time to go two lengths up almost instantly.
WR: What were your responsibilities as captain of the Oxford University Blue Boat in 2015?
CL: Many were quite far removed from the club’s performance. As president I had to sit on five separate committees. Much of it related to college bumping races. Some time was also spent doing sponsorship stuff or liaising with the women’s club, which raced in London for the first time that year. But my core role was to lead and organise training, to liaise with the coaches about training and selection and to make sure from within that we won the Boat Race.
WR: In 2010 you and George Nash won silver in the men’s four at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships together. The following year, you became under-23 World Champions in the men’s pair. What was it like to transition from being teammates to rivals in the Oxford Cambridge Boat Race?
CL: While in training for the 2013 race, where George and I raced each other, I rarely thought about him training to try and beat me. But after the race I remember embracing him at the finish. Winning against him per se was not something that motivated me, and it gave me no pleasure to see him beaten.
WR: How has your Boat Race experience complemented your training as a British athlete and vice versa?
CL: More training and racing is more experience. I’m 24 and I feel I’ve packed a lot of experiences in as far as rowing goes. The Boat Race teaches you how to race under an enormous amount of pressure and with a lot of attention focused on you. Training with the GB team forces you to work hard again and again. So they complemented each other well.
WR: What makes a good eight?
CL: A good, locked on front end (ideally together) and as much power and aggression as you can give it, especially in the first 750m.
WR: A back injury in the months leading up to London 2012 questioned your participation at the Olympic Games. What helped you through this time of uncertainty?
CL: My parents and my girlfriend were great sources of strength and comfort. Other than that, I just had to believe that I was valuable enough to the crew to force my way back in however late in the day.
WR: How would you describe your London final?
CL: I only remember a few points: talking to myself while attaching at the start (“it’s still just rowing…”); being a seat down at 500m; being a seat up at 1250m; the finish and a bronze medal. It was the most intense experience of my life. The pain, the physical and emotional intensity, the other crews closing in, the roaring crowd made it sensory overload.
WR: In which boat do you hope to race at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and why?
CL: The four: this is the boat we’ve been selected in for the European Championships and I’m with three outstanding athletes.
WR: If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
CL: A sloth? I’m quite idle really. That’s one reason I’d be useless in an individual sport.
WR: What is something that can always be found in your fridge?
CL: Greek yoghurt
WR: How do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
CL: I really have no idea. Hopefully I’ll have a medal from the Rio Olympics stashed away gathering dust.