Living the Team GB dream
Tom Ford is refreshingly relaxed for someone about to row in the world famous Henley Royal Regatta and hoping to represent his country at Tokyo 2020. It’s possible he’s earnt the right to keep a cool head when faced with more competitions. In a career spanning 14 years his accolades include winning at Henley three times, Bronze at the World Championships, Silver at the Belgrade World Cup and a further two Silver medals at the European Championships in 2018 and 2019 as part of Team GB - a position most professional athletes covet. But while we chat at the historic Leander Club on the Thames it becomes clear that this humble 26-year-old isn’t the type to shout too loudly about the sweat and sacrifice that goes into winning medals; he simply gets on with it. “I don’t get that nervous and I try to think of it as just another race. It’s actually not much different to what we do in training day in, day out, so by the time we’re on the water, I’m ready. It was my dream to be a professional athlete and I feel fortunate to be able to do this so I stay pretty calm and try not to put too much pressure on myself”, Tom tells James + Jake.
That dream was one he pursued early on in life, having started rowing at the age of 13. After success at school, he competed consistently through his teenage years before joining the Men’s Eight for his university, Newcastle. And although winning a place on Team GB in 2017 was a career highlight, the hard work was far from over. Training is necessary all year-round, with a typical day consisting of weight lifting in the gym, 20km of rowing on the water followed by a one-hour ergo session (machine-based techniques). It’s that dedication, he tells us, that can help anyone set themselves apart from the rest. “There are always people out there who are naturally talented or who have a passion for a particular sport. But the main thing when it comes to succeeding is to put in the time and effort. There is no real replacement for hard work. It’s different for every individual and you’ve got to make some sacrifices. If you want it badly enough you’ll do what you need to do.”
Sheer dedication is a trait he has in common with other sporting greats like Jonny Wilkinson and David Beckham, both famously and intensely focused on perfecting their skills. But no matter how hard working or successful a sportsman may be, inevitably there are losses to be dealt with. When you’re aiming for the top, what’s the secret to getting over the setbacks? Tom tells us: “There will always be losses but the trick is to learn from them and move on to the next thing. For us, they can give us more hunger as a team, motivating us to do that bit better in the next race. We’ve always compete to win but sometimes you’re second or third. I think the key is to always aim for the win”.
His races continue through autumn and winter following what is expected to be another glorious summer regatta season, including the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta, which Tom will take part in. Then training steps up in earnest for next year’s Olympic Games. After Britain’s medal-winning run in both London 2012 and Rio 2016, the nation’s eyes will soon be firmly on the next intake of athletes. But it’s not something that rattles this rower. He has an enviably calm demeanour; controlled, focused, grounded - all six foot three of him. It’s the kind of quality you see in people who have found their purpose and achieved the dreams they had and goals they set. So what advice does he have for those hoping to find the same fulfillment? “Set goals. It’s the single best thing you can do. Start small and keep going. When Tyson Fury was at his lowest, darkest point, before all of his success, he has said he set himself single short term goals. It’s something I have always done and was advised to do by my university rowing coach. I practice it when I’m on the water, too - look for the next goal, then the next. When you’ve achieved one, move on to another. Ask yourself what’s the next target? Success snowballs.”
For more information on Tom and British Rowing go to britishrowing.org
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