For the past few weeks, Georgie Rowe has been coming to terms with the reality that her dreams of competing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have been put on hold.
For the elite still-water rower, the past four years have been dedicated to getting there.
But the disappointment of the postponement hasn’t held her back. Just two weekends ago, she broke a world record for the fastest indoor rowing half-marathon. She clocked a time of 1hr 19 min 28.4sec over the distance of 21,097 metres and smashed the record set five years ago by US rower Esther Lofgren.
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Rowe says she had intentions of going for the record, although it wasn’t necessarily planned out. She says with the rowing machine, it often depends on how you feel on the day.
“I thought maybe I’d do a longer piece on the ergs to get some metres up for the Interstate Indoor Regatta,” she told Women’s Agenda.
“21kms isn’t much different to what we would do on a normal daily basis out at our training centre, so I knew the distance would be achievable.”
So, she decided to see what she could really do.
“I wasn’t entirely sure what I was capable of,” she says. “But now, I think if I did it again, I could probably push a little harder.”
That’s the norm for Rowe, who has pushed hard for everything she’s achieved. Whether it was kayaking and surf boat rowing in her earlier years, or the still-water rowing she’s focused on now.
She says it’s been a long process to get where she is, always doing a lot of sport and surrounding herself with inspiring athletes. Her auntie is a two-time Olympian, and she has close relationships with Naomi Flood and Jo Bridgen Jones, both Olympic kayakers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot for Rowe. Since the news the Olympics have been postponed until 2021, she has gone through a mix of emotions. At first, there was relief.
“We were in this kind of limbo, where we didn’t really know what was happening in the world, we were seeing all this stuff on the news and there were all these whispers. So when they made the decision, there was a sense of relief.”
Having now had time to digest it and work through the immense disappointment, she’s looking on the bright side. For her, it means there’s another year to get fitter, stronger and faster.
Rowe is also a registered nurse, having worked in aged care for a number of years. It means she’s juggling training while also being on the frontline of the pandemic. The facility where she works on Sydney’s northern beaches is isolating their residents. Only staff are allowed in or out.
“I worked last night and I’m one registered nurse in charge of 80 people,” she explains.
“So I’m there running around with the phone because all the families want to FaceTime. And some of the older people have advanced dementia, so it’s not always the easiest.”
“I had a voicemail from one lady, and she just called to say ‘if you could just let my husband know I love him, I’d really appreciate that.’ It really pulls on my heartstrings.”
As for what she’s doing to keep in touch with her mental health during the crisis?
Most days, she’s waking up and going for a swim at the beach, then having a coffee. Social distancing restrictions mean she’s no longer training at Penrith, so she tends to have a little more time on her hands.
“I bought a puzzle and I’m trying to be mindful. Not spending too much time on my phone,” she says.
“I don’t think I’ve been doing anything better than anybody else at the moment. I take a lot out of the fact that everybody is going through this for the first time, and no one way of coping is better.”
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