Jack Beaumont is a British rower who represented Team GB at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. This is part 3 of his exclusive interview with Ashwyn Lall, founder of Ash’s Sports Talk. Jack shares his journey to the Olympic final, his views on planning for life after sport, developing a positive mindset, and his views on showcasing rowing as a sport for everybody. Parts of the interview have been edited for reading comfort. (Click the link to read the other parts of his interview: part one and part two).
Part 3 – Jack’s epic journey to the Rio 2016 Olympics
Ashwyn Lall: In 2016, when you got the call that you would be going to the Rio 2016 Olympics, what thoughts and emotions were going through your mind?
Jack Beaumont: I had not been picked for the Olympics, and I was really disappointed as I believed I was good enough. I was chosen as a spare, and my job was to support the Olympic team. I went on camps with them and replaced anyone who was sick or injured for a session. On the last day before they flew to Rio, I was still substituting an athlete who had back pain. After training that day, I wished the guys good luck but deep down, I wanted to hop on that plane with them. They all thanked me for being a great spare. I felt so lonely when I was driving back home that day. All of my best mates were off to live their dream that they had worked so hard to achieve, and I wanted to go with them, even just to support. I am not ashamed to say I shed a tear that afternoon.
Two days later, the performance director at British Rowing phoned me. He told me that one of our rowers had come down with a sickness, and they needed me to get to Rio as soon as possible to cover for him. It was a strange time, as I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone what was happening. It felt so surreal but became real when boarding the flight and the first two people I saw were Andy Murray and Chris Froome. That was when it kicked in that I realised, “Wow, this is the Olympics”.
During the flight, my mind was torn. I did not want to get my hopes up, as I had not been told that I would be competing. Also from a team perspective, I wanted Graeme to be in the best health possible to ensure the Team perform to their best. But of course there was a selfish part of me that was desperately hoping for my own opportunity.
When I arrived at the team hotel, the performance director sat down and told me Graeme was being withdrawn and that I would be selected for the Olympic games. I was eating my dinner and my hands were shaking. It was overwhelming! I was going to be competing at the Olympics which was my dream! I had conflicting views in my head though, as I would have preferred to have been chosen on merit instead of being chosen as a substitute due to one of my teammate’s misfortune.
Whilst being excited to become an Olympian, I was heartbroken for Graeme. I remember calling my dad, and I was so upset because I knew Graeme was somewhere in the same hotel and would have recently heard the same news and would be devastated. My dad told me ‘Jack, there are three other people in that boat, of course, it’s awful for Graeme, but they have the most significant event of your lives coming up and you must do your best for them’.
How did you feel this experience impacted your mindset? As you are at the Rio Olympics, the biggest stage of the sport. What did you want to happen next?
Well, if you are a part of Team GB, you’re not there just to take part, you’re there to try and win a gold medal. That was the target, and it always will be. We also knew we were up against it as we only had four days to train together, when most teams have four years! We gave it our best shot and were very proud to qualify for the final. I remember waking up on the day of the Olympic final and thinking that on that day, in around six minutes, I could win everything I’ve ever dreamed of and that I’ve worked so hard for. It was an exciting thought!
Other than that, the race at the Olympic games compared to any other race is not hugely different. There are six lanes, each two thousand metres long, and those lanes are full of others who want to beat you. However, the enormity of the Olympics and the media presence certainly reminds you that there is a lot at stake.
Did you experience an increase in pressure at the Olympics compared to National competitions?
In terms of pressure, I did not feel any different to racing at Maidenhead Regatta as a 12-year-old because, at the time, that was the most significant occasion I had experienced as a rower and felt immense pressure. I think that every race is always the most important race of your career so far, so I always feel the same level of pressure and nerves.
Read about Jack’s advice for rowers during COVID-19, about role models and personal setbacks in part 4 of this exclusive interview to be published next Saturday …
(First published at https://ashsportstalk.org/. Parts of the interview have been edited for reading comfort.)