Thornley hopes new double act can inspire her to greater heights
Rowing

Thornley hopes new double act can inspire her to greater heights

22 August 2019 / 12:04

Rowing, as much as any sport, is about teamwork.

Regardless of individual talent, without the timing and cohesion of the team, the rest becomes worthless.

For Vicky Thornley, even as she races in the single sculls in her bid to reach a third Olympics, teamwork remains as important as ever.

The 31-year-old came fifth in the eight in London 2012 as she made her Olympic bow, before winning silver in Rio in the double sculls alongside Dame Katherine Grainger.

And while she will now be on her own on the water, it is her partnership with coach Paul Reedy that will be crucial as she prepares to head to Austria for the World Rowing Championships, which double up as the Olympic qualifiers and get underway on Sunday.

She explained: “I raced the single in 2013 and 2014 but it wasn’t really my first choice. This Olympiad, I very much came back from Rio to do the single.

“It’s a very personal project and a very personal journey. It’s different. We spend a lot of time in singles training in the winter anyway. But going from the eight to the double was a change because it’s more of an intense partnership with just two of you in the boat.

“Even though I’m in the boat on my own now, there is still the teamwork with my coach and that relationship is really key. He’s the only other person involved in the nitty gritty of it.

“When I came back from Rio, I wanted Paul Reedy to be my coach. He’s coached me a little bit on and off over the years and I’ve got huge respect for him.

“He’s got massive experience, he’s got an Olympic medal himself and coached the light women’s double to gold in London and he’s pretty relaxed and laid back which I think is good for me because sometimes I can be a little bit high strung.

“So he kind of balances me out. He’s really easy to work with and every day is less stressful when you have a good relationship with your coach. It’s been a really good working relationship with him over the last three years.”

Like his protégé, Reedy won Olympic silver, doing so in the quad sculls for Australia at the Los Angeles Games in 1984.

As Thornley explains, he then coached Katherine Copeland and Sophie Hosking to lightweight double sculls gold in London.

However, even a duo as experienced as Thornley and Reedy are always learning, particularly after a year in 2018 where the former had to cut short her season due to over-training.

She said: “All Olympiads have had very different stories for me. That’s the great thing in sport and life in general is that nothing goes the way you expect it to, or the way you think or hope it will go.

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“2017 was great for me with the early season races and then finishing with a silver medal at the World Championships. It was a really enjoyable year and just what I needed after the intensity and the pressures of the previous year with the Olympics.

“Then I overcooked it and over-trained in 2018. That had a lot of knock-on effects and more knock-on effects to this year than I probably appreciated.

“You are always learning, no matter how much experience you have. You can always do things better. Last year was a prime example of that. I’m an experienced athlete and I still managed to over-train. I’ve learned massively from it and you are never done learning in this sport.”

The knock-on effects were evident earlier this season as Thornley struggled to produce her best form at the European Championships, coming seventh in Lucerne.

However, those struggles will be forgotten provided everything goes right in Ottensheim where the top nine will secure a quota place for Tokyo.

That brings huge pressure, even for a rower as experienced as Thornley, but she has found ways of dealing with that in this third Olympiad.

She said: “The good thing with experience is I know the level of racing I’ll be faced with come the World Championships.

“It’s always the fastest racing during the Olympiad because people’s Olympic dreams are on the line. Going with the knowledge of that is good.

“Nerves always come into it, at every World Championships and every international race. This year there is obviously more pressure and with experience I’ve learned the best way to deal with it, but it doesn’t mean it goes away.

“But it’s just how to manage it and not let it override the process of racing. Pressure is a privilege to have as well because it means that I’m racing in the World Championships, representing my country.

“So I have to use it in the right way and make sure it doesn’t affect my performance negatively.”

As well as her experience, the other advantage Thornley has is her trust in the British Rowing programme.

Having topped the medal table in the rowing at each of the last three Olympics Games, there is an added confidence for the British rowers.

If all goes to plan, Thornley will be hitting her peak at just the right time in Austria.

She added: “The momentum is going in the right direction which is a good thing. I trust that if I follow the programme the way it’s written I will be at my fastest come the World Championships.

“You always want to build, you don’t want to be at your fastest speed in the first regatta, you want to be at your best at the World Championships.”

Sportsbeat 2019