Rory Gibbs - Aiming for Gold
With Team GB’s long tradition of success in Olympic rowing, and some famous victories in the men’s coxless 4 in particular, the team carry the weight of a nation’s expectations on their shoulders.
This summer has also seen tremendous success from Oxford Brookes boat club, consistently producing high calibre athletes capable of earning medals at the games. One such product of Brookes Rowing is Rory Gibbs.
Rory will be familiar to many people reading this article. Many of you will recognise him from his time at Oxford Brookes as a student, as a member of boat club, and from pouring pints behind that bar at the Centre for Sport in Headington. Many more will now also recognise him from their TV screens, as he follows in the footsteps of those famous British athletes by heading for an Olympic medal race in the 4’s boat.
Having come through their heats unscathed – finishing ahead of the Italians, and recording a time of 5:55.36 - Rory will now be appearing in the Men’s 4 final, which you’ll be able to watch on the BBC from 02:10am in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
We managed to catch up with Rory during his preparations for the delayed games in Tokyo to find out a little more.
Congratulations on your selection for the GB team - how does it feel to finally be heading to Tokyo?
Loads of emotions - relief, pride, gratitude, there are so many! In truth it has been such an uncertain year with Covid, and the picture is constantly changing, so despite being officially selected again, I’ve been trying to keep a level head in order to take on any new developments as best I can, if or when they come.
How did you get started in rowing, and whendid you first realise you were good at it?
I took my first rowing strokes at Millfield School but really learnt the trade at Oxford Brookes. Millfield opened rowing up to me, but Brookes taught me the skills and the mind set required to succeed in the sport. I suppose I’ve always been fairly aspirational and confident in my abilities - you have to be if you want to succeed in rowing - but once I’d won at Henley Royal Regatta with Brookes, that’s when I really felt I had the potential go far in the sport.
What is training with Oxford Brookes Boat Club like?
It’s almost like training at the national team to be honest. The programme at Brookes has developed so much over the past decade under Henry Bailhach-Webb. It’s extremely professional, competitive, and has a very good culture. With that said, I went to Brookes with very little rowing experience, and in my first few years slowly worked on my technique and built up a tolerance to the training, while enjoying a balanced university lifestyle. It was only once I knew I wanted to find my limits that the intensity really rose. What I'm trying to say is there is a place at Brookes for all abilities.
How did the pandemic impact on your training?
Most significantly, I didn’t actually go rowing on the water for almost 6 months last summer whilst we went through the first few lockdowns. For a large portion of the year I was also training at home from my garage, on my own, which is something I wasn’t used to. Slowly I integrated back to the national training centre thanks to British Rowing’s extremely diligent and effective Covid protocols – and it’s thanks to those measures that the national team have been able to train to the best of their ability for the past several months.
What is your daily schedule like at the moment?
Right now I’m away on a training camp in Italy, and I’ll be away on camp all the way up until the Olympics now. Put simply each day is basically 'eat, sleep, row, repeat' multiple times throughout the day. It’s extremely taxing physically and mentally, but will all be worth it.
What is your target for the games?
I would love to come away with an Olympic Gold medal, and continue Great Britain’s winning streak in the men’s four.
What would you tell someone with aspirations of rowing at the Olympics?
Be prepared to make sacrifices, enjoy the process, and believe in yourself - that’s key!