Athlete of the Month - May 2012
When Greg Searle decided to give elite rowing another go he was planning to do something quite remarkable. The last time Searle rowed was at the 2000 Olympic Games. But the lure of competing at a home Games brought Greg back to training and he is now a regular fixture in his country’s men’s eight. If Greg is successful at the London Olympics, he will close a 20 year gap since his first Olympic gold which he gained at the 1992 Olympic Games.
The British ‘comeback kid’ talks to World Rowing about his new lease of life in the competitive rowing world.
World Rowing: Where are you at present?
I'm at the GB Team base in Caversham. I'm eating eggs, bacon, sausage, beans and toast. I've been rowing and I will again later.
WR: Tell me how you first got involved in rowing. And what made you decide to take it to the elite level?
GS: My older brother Jonny rowed at school but I didn't really want to. I preferred ball games. Then I watched him win the Princess Elizabeth Cup at Henley (Royal Regatta) in 1985, in front of about 100,000 people and then I thought it looked quite good. I knew I'd take it seriously when I did over 4,000 clicks (revolutions of the fly wheel as the ergo had no digital readout) on the big orange 'gesling' ergo aged 15.
WR: You have had a lot of publicity with your comeback to rowing after a lengthy retirement; did you expect the amount of interest that you have received?
GS: I hadn't really thought about publicity. I'm rowing again because I enjoy it and I think I have something to offer the GB team in 2012.
WR: When you were thinking about making a comeback did you have any examples of other athletes that have done the same?
GS: Rocky III. The way he comes back from adversity to beat Mr T is pretty special.
WR: How would you compare your fitness leading up to the 2000 Olympics to your fitness now? What was your best 2000m erg in 2000 and what is it today?
GS: I was strongest in 1996 when I pulled 5.44.1. I'm not quite there now, but I'm stronger in my head.
WR: Tell us about the difference in your mental attitude and approach to training now compared to 2000?
GS: I appreciate the opportunity I have to row again now. I always enjoy every session however hard as I know it is doing me good. I guess it helps that the days to London are limited and I know what my life will be like from 2nd August onwards.
WR: After retiring from rowing in 2000 did you do any masters rowing/competition? Did you compete in any other sports?
GS: I rowed but never in any masters races. Me and the group at my club (Molesey) would rather come 50th in the open races than win the masters.
From 2001-2003 I sailed in the GBRChallenge for the America's Cup. I was a grinder and raced numerous times. I enjoyed it but found it less interesting than rowing. I also didn't like the lack of responsibility that most of us, including myself had over the outcome of the race. I ran the London Marathon twice and did the London Triathlon twice and enjoyed them.
WR: You row now with teammates a lot younger than you; do they have a favourite topic to tease you about? What about nicknames?
GS: They tease me about having a mid-life crisis. In terms of nicknames they refer to me as a 'House wife's favourite' and I get called ‘The Manther’.
WR: I understand that you have a young family. Were they around when you raced at the Sydney Olympics? What is their understanding of rowing?
GS: Josie is 11. My wife, Jenny, was pregnant in Sydney. My son Adam is 9. They are both looking forward to the Olympics. They miss me when I'm away and I worry that I am missing lots of good times with them. I am actually around quite a lot now and when I'm with them I'm much more engaged than I was when I was working. Luckily rowing stops when I put the boat away but my previous job was much more stressful.
WR: As a father what do you hope to instil in your kids from your current experience and choices?
GS: That it's important to follow your heart and live your life. Enjoy every day.
WR: With the Belgrade World Rowing Cup being the first international regatta of the 2012 season what are your expectations for this event?
GS: I am looking forward to racing. We want to do well and we want to learn from racing.
WR: Will the team prepare/taper for this regatta or is it just part of training at this stage?
GS: Every day is an opportunity to learn and will make us stronger. That goes right up to, and includes the Olympic Games.
World Rowing: Are you still in Caversham?
Greg Searle: Yes, today I'm eating porridge
WR: When will you leave for the Lucerne World Rowing Cup?
GS: Early Wednesday morning so we can row on the beautiful Rotsee in the afternoon. I hope there won't be a hailstorm this year.
WR: Where can you be found the hour before a race?
GS: I will be in a dark corner of the boat house smashing my head against the wall listening to AC/DC. I like to get psyched up.
WR: Do you have any superstitions or pre-race rituals?
GS: I like to check the bolts on my rigger and foot stretcher, but always nine bolts only.
WR: Does your family come to regattas to watch you race?
GS: Not often. At nine and 11 years old my kids find a whole regatta gets a bit boring. They will be at the Olympics for my races and I'm sure that won't be dull.
WR: Is your approach to racing that same as it was 20 years ago?
GS: My approach hasn't changed much in 20 years. I am still passionate in training and in races. I think it's best to show my emotions so people know what's going on.
WR: Does it feel to you like the Olympics are very soon, or still a long way off?
GS: I was excited to see the flame arrive in Great Britain this week. That makes the Olympics feel a bit more real and another step closer.
WR: What do you think will be the best part of rowing in your own country at the Olympics?
GS: I hope the British public will really support the Games and enjoy sports, like rowing, that they don't normally follow. I am looking forward to me and my family being part of the special atmosphere.
WR: Do you have a favourite saying?
GS: Everybody is Jesus in disguise.
WR: Do you think of plans for yourself after the London Olympics?
GS: I am looking forward to holidays when I don't have to share a room with another man and getting a puppy for my kids.