Richard Chambers – an athlete’s perspective

the final fulong….. last talk.

Before he started rowing he was both determined and stubborn and quite aggressive as a child.  I still am like that but it’s more controlled.  He remembers at school seeing older boys with a rowing badge on and wanting to be one of them.  Played trumpet in regional orchestra, Christian Union, school musicals – lots of extra curricular activities and I was told not to take on rowing.  Because I was told not to do it I joined up!  Bobby Platt was his first coach at Coleraine School.  It was all rowing, no sculling.   He also produced Alan Campbell.


First memorable school win was J16 8 which was a great memory.  I am on the School Rowing board and the motto was “it’s tough but you have just got to get through it.”

Left school and went to college and moved onto sculling coached by Simon Hamilton and joined Bann Rowing Club.  Raced in Eire as well and won a few races and got selected for Ireland rowing at home countries in Cork and came 3rd.  It was fabulous getting my first international vest.  We love the whole atmosphere and it was great representing your country.  It was where I met James Clark who was the English pair we raced.


University at Oxford Brookes – it was hard to study and row.  He was never much attracted to the big parties and massive drunkenness.  4 year programme.  It was very tough to combine both.  But made me a determined person and developed my time management skills.  Richard Spratley was the coach with Peter Haining.  Brookes developed my mental skills to be very tough and never to give up.  Pull to the very last stroke.  Haining helped a lot.  If he saw you back off he would be on your case hard – there were 2 hour sessions and they were high intensity.


20 mins ergos back to back flat out for 2 hours, runs, circuits.  There is no such thing as paddling at Brookes – always R20-22 half to firm pressure.  No such thing as light pressure.  Lots of testing done around the squad programme.  After 7 weeks of the programme we did a preparatory 2k session at rate 22 planning how to test.  I did a PB in that session!  That’s how hard the programme was and how fit we got.


Did trials in first year at Brookes 2003 and came 79th – they said go away and train for a year.  It was great because he did Henley with the club.
2004 started trials again with a view of getting higher up the order and kept being asked back to squad training weekends and final trials.  Was selected to do 2x with Stephen Feeney at Essen.  Not a success.  Did a 4x with Doug Perrin and Chris Bartley and went to Marlow and Amsterdam.  Got beaten by the juniors at Marlow but at Amsterdam we did better and so we got selected for U23 team.  It is such an honour to row with the British flag on your shirt.  Coach was Nigel Muir.  In the final race we won a silver.  500m we were 6th; at 1000m we were 6th and I called a push an dit was incredible the boat really picked up and something clicked we started moving really well together.  I remember calling 5th, now we’re 4th and then 3rd….coming through 250m I started shouting colours “silver”, “Bronze”, Silver, Bronze as we fought the Italians for that second place…. just beind the Germans.  I still get excited talking about it.  What a race!!!


2005 season we went on a training camp to Bordeaux and we had two crews a 4x and 4- and throughout the camp I was never allowed to go in the 4 because my trials eresults weren’t good enough. I gave Darren Whiter such a hard time becuae I really wanted to ge in the four.  It made me so determined.  2k test 2 weeks later I was so annoyed I pulled a 5 second pb.  I htank Darren for that, he made me more determined by not letting me get into the 4. 


Went to Duisburg as a 2- with Chris Bartley and were going to see how fast we were.  We won each race by quite a long way beating all the other gb pairs by 32-4 lengths. The next challenge was David Tanner letting us go to Poznan for the world cup… first senior vest.  Itw as my first senior vest. It was an intense atmosphere and we had a good time coached by Darren Whiter.  The Germans beat us in the heat by half a length.  We talked about it overnight to make sure we beat them in the final.  We decided to lengthen the start out and stay harder for longer and we changed some of the pushes and we rattled the Germans’ cage and we were up at 500m and at 1000 we were still level and the whole way we were stroke for stroke with them, bow balls jumping past each other and down to the last 2-3 strokes we just pulled it out of the bag.  We beat them by a canvas…. Gold.  On the podium I was kneeling because I collapsed!


Went to U23 worlds in Belgium with the aim of being world champions for a year.  Darren was a great coach and taught us a lot.  Developed the way we rowed and how to gel as a crew.  We weren’t the strongest and couldn’t lift the heaviest weights but we were neat rowing style.  When we got off the water we were told we could go to the senior championships too at Dorney.


This was phenomenal, mindblowing as it was the start of my senior career.  We came 6th but didn’t really have a good championships. Our final race wasn’t good.  It was just one race too far for us as we’d already done one world champs that year!  It was one of the toughest experiences of my life.
Being a lightweight we have a crew average weight of 70kg.  I have cut butter and cheese from my diet and on skimmed milk which is horrible.  Preparation for Beijing starts now and what I do now will make it easier then.  There are only 6 seats for lightweight men.  The competition is tough and tight and it makes us better athletes because of it. 
 

This took me into full time training as an athlete for the 2007 season  I was still at University and trying to do a dissertation and I had other commitments to Church and the Christian Union too and trying to keep friends as well as a full time rowing career is very hard.  I had to turn down so many invitations – they stop asking you eventually.  It’s a sacrifice you have to make.   Meeting deadlines was also tough.  But as training went on I got to final trials and came 6th.  The first year I did it I came last in C final; second year I came last in B final and then this year was last in A final.


The new Lwt 4 was put together. The World cup season – we had no idea how well we would do or how fast we were.  We felt in the dark about this.  Got a Bronze from the first… needing to hold onto it and got Silver at Amsterdam.  After that we knew the Chinese were not going to be a Luzern and so we thought we could win the overall world cup at Luzern and we did win gold there.  At the back of my mind I thought it was because the Chinese weren’t there… I have something to prove at the Worlds   this was the best a Lwt 4 had ever performed for Britain.  


At training camp we have no travel, cooking and get maximum recovery time which means we can train harder.  Senior World champs Clarke, Mattick, Lindsay-Fynn, Chambers coached by Robin Williams.  We didn’t really know how we would do.  Our first aim was to qualify for the Olympics.  Have to come in the top 11 crews.  The toughest race for me was the semi-final.  I was so nervous, I was physically sick in the night.  Qualifying for the Olympics got decided in that race.  We did an awesome race and won our semi and qualified.  I put my hands in the air at the finish.  The final was so much fun after that.  The stress was gone.  It was fantastic, I enjoyed every minute of it.  We got a gold medal.  

What a line-up Canada, Britain, Denmark, China, France, Italy.  Awesome collection of fantastic nations.
James Clarke is the most laid back men ever and a great stroke and steersman
Mattick is very strong a mini-Schwartzenegger
Lindsay-Fynn – I was glad he was in my crew and not another one!

He commentated on the video of his Worlds final 2007.
Lane 4….we knew we had a quick start and had always been fist to 250 and that had to happen in the final.  45 – 46 and started to settle into about 42.  Focus at 250 length, hard, rhythm and we were down and I looked across and was comfortable where we were.  WE focused on good rhythm at 38 down to 500m.  At 500m we settled into our main race and we knew we’d done it right.  Under rating some of the others at tthis time.  The main part of our race was the best, all we had to do was slam the legs and open our backs.  750 I thought we weren’t quite in the race as we were about 3rd…. just before 1k I called legs and open up a bit more getting ready for our 1k push – this is a massive legs call and we all just hammered them in the boat.  It is amazine when 4 people commit to something the boat picks up.  Wes start to make inroads to Italians about half a length.  Rhythm was comfortable at this point.  1250m Robin told me I looked round too often and I looked round more in that race than ever before.  I think that’s how I race.  I do it seat racing too. Third place at 1500.  The last part of our race has never been great and at this point I called legs again and I think I am good at speaking when my lungs are hanging out. I put a lot of aggression.  White makers appeared and all I call is go for the last few calls.  James and Paul really made us work they took it up and it was neck and neck with the Italians and I remember thinking we can do this just hold on and don’t catch a crab. Half a length win.   It was really guts and determination.

One thought on “Richard Chambers – an athlete’s perspective

  1. stephen smyth says:

    This is an excellent piece.
    The hardness and sacrifice of this sort of life come through & the sheer effort of racing & joy of winning.
    Soccer players are a joke compared to this.
    These are the special ones and are legends.
    well done Richard Chambers & bring back the big Gold from Beijing.

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