Henry Fieldman was supposed to be coxing the Team GB men’s eight along the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo this summer.
But postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games due to the worldwide spread of COVID-19 means it will be another year before he gets the chance to guide his team to Olympic glory.
The 31-year-old cox describes his disappointment when he heard that the Olympic Games, the biggest show on Earth, was postponed for the first time in its history.
“I was initially very upset,” Fieldman explains.
“But that’s just a really emotional response and when I think about the practicalities of it and what’s going on in the world, it’s definitely the right decision.”
Things were put into perspective for Fieldman by talking to his younger brother who works as an NHS doctor.
“Talking to him about it all and what his experiences are like and then thinking about the practicalities, my initial negative emotions about hearing that the Olympics cancelled are very much dissipated,” Fieldman says.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still disappointed, but it’s definitely outweighed by the practical need. Everyone’s just got to muck in and do the best they can to stop the spread of this thing.”
Fieldman is fully aware of the road that lies ahead. For him and his team it’s another year of investing themselves physically and emotionally into training but Fieldman is determined to enhance their hopes of a gold medal in Tokyo.
“It’s a challenge and it’s a pretty unique challenge, no Olympic team has ever really had to do anything like this,” he explains.
“Everyone’s got the same issues but we also have an opportunity to do things better so in that way it’s quite positive.
“We’ve got a lot of time where we have to just be on the land or on the rowing machines and maybe we can just use this to get fitter than we are.
“And then maybe use the event that is this pandemic to come together stronger as a team and group of people.”
Rowing is typically one of Great Britain’s strongest sports when it comes to the Olympic Games but with a relatively young crew Fieldman welcomes the extra twelve months as an opportunity for his team to mature and gain experience.
“I think if you were to look at the strength of our team versus previous GB teams or other international teams that we are competing against, we are physically very strong and very fit but what we lack is experience,” he adds.
“With this extra year we’re not going to be doing an extra year of rowing but we’re going to be doing an extra year of maturing as people and learning more about ourselves.
“We’re gonna rock up at the Olympic Games, with an older more mature team than we would have had, and perhaps that was one of our weaknesses.”
The cox sympathises with athletes from other sports who aren’t able to adapt their training routine to quarantine circumstances. His team has been able to train, as they often would in the cold winter months, on rowing machines.
“I guess for other sports like swimming or tennis or whatever, being able to train effectively in this time must be really really challenging,” he said.
“It’s challenging for our guys but I think they’re making do pretty well.”
As for Fieldman himself, a daily run and some core exercise has, in his words, turned his home into a scene from ‘Rocky III’.
Both he and his team seem to have brushed off any initial disappointment they may have had and are ready to devote another year of training for a chance to get their hands on the gold medal.
Fieldman says: “I wouldn’t say we have got any real holes. If we can maybe just upscale everything. Get that little bit fitter, that little bit stronger, that little bit more technically efficient, then there may be a bit more of a cohesive team.”
He is positive that they have already put themselves into a good position: “It’s not like all that work has gone to waste.
“It’s still very very useful. All that training is gonna count when it comes to those races.
“So now we’re just gonna go through the process of unwinding a bit and then winding up again for those finals in 2021.”