posted by Jamie Durent of the Inverness Courier - 13 Sep 2015, 3:58 p.m.
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ATHLETES around the world will have the Rio Olympics at the top of their priority list.
However, for Munlochy rower Alan Sinclair it is not something to worry about.
Although it’s the pinnacle of many sportspeople’s careers and is something Sinclair desperately wants to be part of, so much can change in the next eight to nine months that stressing about it could push any hopes well off course.
Sinclair has had the best year of his career. A gold medal in the men’s four at the European Championships in Poland in May was backed up last weekend by a bronze medal at the World Championships in France in the same event. Alongside Tom Ransley, Scott Durant and Stewart Innes, he is on something of a hot streak.
As well as starring with the men’s four, one of Great Britain’s best rowing events, he has also featured in the coxed pair and men’s eight events during this Olympiad. But, tempting as it may be, the former Inverness Rowing Club member will not be distracted by talk of Brazil.
“There’s a lot of stuff that can happen before then. Getting selected for the Olympics is a big ask and the teams are going to get better still,” he said. “The next few months are going to be really tense.
“I’m not really fussed which event I compete in — as long as I get to go. Right now, the best boat, you imagine, is going to be the men’s four and there’s still some titans to be re-introduced to that boat. Physiologically speaking, these guys are monsters.”
The “monsters” Sinclair refers to are Andrew Triggs-Hodge, Tom James, Pete Reed and Alex Gregory, with the latter joining the quartet to help them retain their Olympic title in 2012. Add to that multiple world and European crowns, you can see why Sinclair is respectful of his national compatriots.
Rowing is traditionally one of GB’s highest achieving sports and the World Championships, held on Lake Aiguebelette in south-eastern France, followed that standard.
A table-topping 15 medals, including a silver for Sinclair’s fellow Inverness rower Imogen Walsh, means British rowers should be confident of further success in Rio.“To come through an Olympic-class event which GB has such a great reputation in was most satisfying. It’s special,” said Sinclair, who has a three-week break before starting winter training.
“We progressed in every race at the Worlds and said on the start line of the final that we’d just run our own race, not worrying about anybody else. I was completely unaware where we’d finished when we crossed the line and finding out we’d got third, just shy of second place, was incredible.”
His GB team-mate and fellow Highlander Walsh, 18 months Sinclair’s senior, went one better and got a silver medal in the lightweight women’s double sculls, which Sinclair labelled “awesome”. Walsh was second only to New Zealander Zoe McBride, the teen prodigy highly-rated by the Kiwis ahead of Rio 2016.
Both Walsh and Sinclair owe a debt of gratitude to their roots in Inverness, where their fathers Paddy and Roy are still heavily involved with the club based on the Caledonian Canal.
The 29-year-old was a junior in the Highland capital, before moving to Aberdeen for university and later Henley-on-Thames, where the GB squad is based.
“I owe a massive thanks to Inverness as they have always supported me,” said Sinclair. “It was great to have that at the grassroots level where I could just enjoy the sport.
“It wasn’t about trying to get me to be the best — my dad taught me to appreciate what rowing was about. When it came to making myself better, it was done off my own bat rather than it being forced on me.”
Never one to miss out, Roy was not too far away when celebrations kicked off in France.
“He popped up on the night out on Sunday,” added Sinclair. “He didn’t turn down the offer of a free beer.”