My journey to a world cup medal.
Hi my name is Niels Van Zandweghe, a 20-year old Belgian lightweight rower and this is the story of my last few months of rowing, culminating in an emotional and unexpected World Cup result.
In October ’15 I started a new project with Tim Brys to try and qualify the LM2x for Belgium for the Rio Olympics. Both of us went into this project as underdogs as we’re a young crew (20 and 23 years old). But right from the first session we found some good speed and rhythm.
During the following months we trained a few times a week in the double but most winter kms were done in our single sculls or on the ergo. It was during the first team-assessment that we started seeing our winter training pay off and the belief in our own qualities started growing.
Both of us PBd on our 2k ergo tests (I rowed 6:09.4, a new Belgium record, with the BAT Logic ErgAdaptor) and our VO2/max tests were promising as well.
During December and January not much training could be done because of our exams. Hence, going into February I was looking for new ways to improve my boat speed so I started using the BAT Logic ShoePlate Pro QuickRelease in-boat. Since then my boat speed has increased a lot! I found with the system that the way that I use my legs is much more effective.
During the month of February our national team spent two weeks in the Spanish city of Seville on training camp – a lot of quality km’s spent on the water there meant that our double started moving really well and we were getting excited for the months to come.
Coming into the month of March we had to do a lot of tests in our single but we never stopped training in our double, always trying to improve on our technique and flow.
April came with the first World Cup in Varese – our first big test! Excitement was the main emotion! During the weeks leading into it we had a major set back. First Tim got ill and then in the week before the world cup I got ill. Both having suffered a severe cold we missed many km’s of training so leading up to the world cup we were a bit afraid to have some bad races.
Our world cup would’ve already been successful if we had rowed anything better than a c-final, but progressing through the rounds we were getting more and more confident in our abilities and we found some good speed during the heats and semi.
When we made it through to the A-final it was already like rowing a dream. We just couldn’t believe that we would be lining up against some of the best lightweight rowers in the world at our age and with our form.
The final was one big blur. I tried to keep my head in the boat as well as I could and just focus on good rhythm to give Tim (a truly incredible athlete) some good length, so that we could move our boat as efficiently as possible. I just remember, coming into the final 500m having a look across the course to see where our Dutch competitors were and saw that we were only a length down, so I had my head down from that point and started to raise the rate and slam my legs down with all the power I still had left! After we finished we didn’t know where we had come.
The few minutes spent waiting for the results of our photo finish felt like ages. But then seeing the camera images of us could only mean one thing. We won the bronze medal! A dream come true!
Both of us are extremely proud to have achieved this result at our first big outing as a proper crew and this has fueled us with even more motivation to work hard to achieve our goals.
The following months will be spent racing and training for the European Championships and the final qualification regatta. After that it’s still unclear of what our plans will be for the summer.
Thanks a lot for the support,