What does “social responsibility” and “giving back” mean to you?
Social responsibility is inextricably linked to being an elite athlete, as is being a role model within society. It is important, and I see it as my responsibility to give back to the rowing community, to New Zealand and anyone that I can inspire or add value to their life. This is not necessarily through financial support and can be as simple as talking at schools, going for a row with an aspiring athlete or being an ambassador for a charity. 

How has your involvement in rowing influenced the ways in which you give back?
Rowing has created my platform to give back to my communities. My success on the water and the goals that I have achieved have added to my story. This story then inspires others, which I feel very privileged to be able to do. The thing that I love about the rowing community is how supportive and inclusive we are of each other. My recent travels have highlighted this. The open arms that are thrust towards you as you move from place to place. This has inspired me to be open to give back as much as possible to rowers of all ages and abilities. 

How has giving back affected your relationship to sport/your goals as an elite athlete?
Giving back is definitely part of my motivation to be the best on the water. If my results can inspire others, that is a great reason to be doing it. Sometimes that is even more of an incentive to prove yourself than the very selfish goals of an elite athlete. It is important to keep this perspective in your training.

What lessons from rowing and sport have helped you?
Rowing has taught me life lessons like time management, dedication, perseverance and the importance of teamwork and building friendships. It has taught me that goals are achieved through hard work and overcoming obstacles. It has instilled a real desire to seek out success in all aspects of my life.

Have you had any setbacks? Has your involvement in sport influenced how you deal with these?
Of course an athletic career comes with obstacles and I think any athlete that says it doesn’t is extremely lucky! It is how you deal with adversity that ultimately makes success. It has taught me to be able to look at situations, analyse the good and the bad, acknowledge mistakes and learn from them.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to “give back” but doesn’t know how?
A simple way to give back would be to pick one venture and do it well. Whether it be a charity, a school, or mentoring an individual, start small and make a real impact - understand what the other party needs from you and how you can help them.

When did you start thinking/planning about life after sport?
Life after sport has always been in the back of my mind. I have always known that rowing would not last for ever, so have prepared for that. Initially it was important to finish my university degree. Later in my career and after a result in London that made me realise that everything doesn’t always go to plan, I began to think more about preparing myself for a career after sport. This meant further education, making contacts, networks and developing myself as more than an athlete.

Were there any mentors/support systems/information in place that you accessed to help you find your way?
High Performance Sport New Zealand have a fantastic support structure that encourages and promotes education and training of athletes while we are training. We are extremely lucky from this perspective to have such support. I also sought mentors that had been successful in their transitions from elite sport and chatted extensively to these people about not only their post-sport careers but also their athletic careers.

For more on Giving Back - look at the Athlete's Zone