So it's a Friday, which means it is time for Friday's feature, Friend for Friday.
Now this weeks friend relates with an on-going news story, which in the coming year, is only going to get bigger and better. Yes, the Olympics! Everyone is talking about it - whether you have tickets, are volunteering as a Games Maker (which I hopefully will be, as I went for an interview last week. Fingers crossed!), if you are going to one of the pre-games events or just love Sport, the London 2012 legacy will not only effect everyone, but will put Britain on the map!
So, what better way to introduce this weeks friend as a former Olympic gold medalist, who not only knows what it feels like to win and participate in the global event, but understands the important role of sport in our lives, and how the Olympics in London will play a part in our future.
Friend for Friday: Ben Hunt-Davis MBE
Ben Hunt-Davis MBE was one of the Men’s Eights British rowing team who won gold in the Sydney Olympics in 2000, the first British winners of the rowing since 1912. Before that, he had rowed for almost a decade in which he had competed in three Olympic Games and six World Championships. After achieving his ultimate goal in his rowing career, Ben retired and has spent the last 7 years running a company called Point8 Coaching which helps individuals in business to improve their performance.
On the 10th February, Ben came to Alton College to talk about his rowing career and prospects for next year’s Olympics. After attending the talk, Kieran Watkins & Alys Penfold spoke to him in more detail about his win, what the Olympics are really about and which football club he thinks should get the Olympic stadium. (I apologise for the terrible photo of me - I look like I have a black eye. Honestly, I wasn't involved in a punch up. It was the gold reflecting onto my tired face!)
What advice can you offer to young people, who wish to aspire high and find ‘their dreams’?
I would offer three pieces of advice:
So what was your real reason for becoming a rower?
- If you have a dream, go for it. Don’t give it up.
- Grab opportunities that come to you - whether it’s a work placement, holiday or something different, the more experience, the more rewarding it will be for the future.
- If you want to do well, whether it is Maths or Sports, keep at it, make sure you enjoy it - and by all means, give it a go. I would never have been where I am now if I did not give rowing ‘a go!’
Well at school, it was very much about Cricket and Ball Sports. I didn’t want to do this, or should I say I was useless at these sports! Nevertheless, I wanted to get into sport and the Olympics, it was my ambition - and so I tried something different. At the age of 13, I went into Rowing. Luckily, the school I went to was really helpful, and they got me in touch with a local rowing club. I trained 3 to 4 times a week - and the rest is history!
So rowing took over your life then?
Well, yes it did. I left school after that, I didn’t want to muck about and study, I wanted to race and train. So I left most of my friends and memories at the school gates, skipped university and went straight into training and improvement on the water.
In your own words, what are the Olympics all about?
It’s like a festival really. Not only is it focused about sport, and encourages people to be healthy, exercise and compete against others, but it brings people together. 2012 will in many ways be all about supporting the nation; whether it is at home, at the venue or the thousands of Games Makers volunteering to do their bit for the country, but let us not forget that the main reason will be to encourage people to try new things through the varieties of sporting activity available.
Are there signs of encouragement, particularly with the young, already showing?
Absolutely. I recently went to a rowing club near Doncaster, and the popularity of the sport is phenomenon. Sport is becoming popular again, and what with the increasing government support through programmes like ‘Change 4 Life’, where exercise supports healthy eating, it is a great time for sport. (I think you should add something here about him saying ‘it’s either sports or xbox’ you know, about getting lots of young people involved through the Olympic committee.)
Can the Olympics be down to this then?
Well, obviously there are lots of factors, but when Sebastian Coe stood in front of the Olympic committee in 2005, he pledged that the 2012 Olympic games in London would get the youth of the world involved in sport again, and if the signs are correct, then we’re definitely ‘going for gold’ on this!
How did you feel after you finished the race?
I just felt out of it, I was knackered! The fact that the whole team and I were so relieved we had crossed that finish line, we just accepted we had won; I was too tired to be enthusiastic about it but then it was just a build of realisation that we had actually won, and it was such a great feeling.
What was the reception like when you got back home?
It was really amazing, and nice to be re united with our families. When we arrived at Heathrow airport, it was full of people just coming up to us and congratulating us. For the next few weeks I was invited to all these parties and balls and really enjoyed myself but we all knew the fame wouldn’t last because we weren’t the most recognized people out of the Olympic team. I haven’t been recognized since!
Have you kept up a healthy regime since you stopped rowing?
I have been out in a boat a few times since and now I am involved with the current Olympic Committee so I do still keep a fairly good lifestyle. It is a big difference to what I ate when I was training though. I had around 7000 calories a day which was made up of about 8 weetabix for breakfast, half a kilo of pasta for lunch and probably the same for dinner. We had to eat lots of carbohydrates such as rice, potatoes, vegetables and fruit. I didn’t eat very much on the morning of the race though, because I just threw it back up!
Finally, who should get the Olympic stadium after the 2012 Olympics; Tottenham or West Ham?
I think West Ham have pretty much got it now, haven’t they? But yeah, I think West Ham would make better use of the stadium.
Pictures courtesy of Ben and writers own.