Biggest secret to promising speed is no secret

Alistair Bond.
Alistair Bond.
We continue our series on Otago's Olympians. Today, sports reporter Matt Smith talks to Otago University rower Alistair Bond.

Matt Smith: Where are you based in the lead-up to Rio?

Alistair Bond: For the last few weeks, I have been based at Lake Bohinj in Slovenia. The training lake is pretty much ideal for us; little wind and speedboat-free. The town has really bent over backwards to welcome us, too. The main street features New Zealand flags all the way along it.

MS: The progression from your crew this season has been impressive. What's clicking for you in the boat?

AB: I think the biggest secret to our promising speed so far this season is that there is no secret ... if that makes sense. We really just focus on executing the basics well and trying to row as well as we each can without compromising.

Previously, I felt that there was almost a magic formula to make the boat go well; when we were all in tune we could really fly, but if things weren't quite right, we didn't have the basics ingrained well enough to correct our issues. We are more consistent now as a crew.

MS: Tell us about the training schedule between now and Rio?

AB: With only a few weeks to go until we race in Rio, the aim of our training is to refine our racing rhythm and strategies. To accomplish this, we will do lots of short interval training that focuses on different aspects of a 2km race.

This means that the overall mileage we row in training will decrease, but the intensity of our sessions will remain high. We fly to Rio on July 27, 10 days before we begin racing.

MS: Who do you see as the biggest threats to your crew at Rio?

AB: Lightweight four races are notoriously close, so there really are a handful of crews that could feature on the podium. In the past two years, Denmark, France and Switzerland are nations that have beaten us, but other countries, including Great Britain, Italy, China and the Netherlands, all feature crews who are capable of special performances.

MS: What does it mean to you personally to make the Olympics?

AB: Growing up, competing at the Olympics was never really a great dream that I wanted to realise. I just rowed because I enjoyed it, and I think if you are going to put time into something, you may as well do so to the best of your ability.

So I guess it is gratifying to see that this sort of simple mindset has allowed me to go as far in the sport as I have. And to be a realistic chance of actually winning a gold medal is pretty amazing.

Also, now that I am in this position, it makes me realise how thankful I am for coaches, my parents, friends and other athletes that have always encouraged and supported me. Hopefully, by competing at the pinnacle of my sport I have made the time and effort they have spent seem worthwhile.

MS: What was the first Olympics you remember watching on TV and what is your most vivid memory of that Olympics?

AB: While I do briefly remember the Atlanta Olympics, my first main memory is of watching Rob Waddell win in Sydney. I watched this with brother Hamish, and this was the first time that I had ever seen international level rowing.

Of course it was pretty incredible to see Hamish replicate this feat in London.

Outside of rowing, I have a vivid memory of sprinting up and down the corridor at my Otago University hall when Usain Bolt broke the 100m world record in 2008.

MS: What do you do with those moments of spare time between training?

AB: I am currently working on my master's in environmental management through Massey University. I think it is important to have something worthwhile to do around training, rather than just watching movies or reading books all day.

MS: The word is you quite enjoy basketball. Do you have a team in the NBA you pin your colours to?

AB: The word is correct. I used to play at school and, while I was never any good, I have always been a big fan of the sport and particularly the NBA. I don't really have any one team I support unconditionally though; I find teams change so much though the years.

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