Bill Lucas & Sam TownsendBill Lucas (l) & Sam Townsend (r)
Bill Lucas - Summer of Dreams
Kingswear’s own Olympian talks about his experiences of London 2012 and how his training for Rio 2016 has already started.
“For half the time you were hidden away with all the same people you’ve been mixing with for four years,” he says, trying to sum up the ‘experience’ of the games. “But when you then come out and row in front of thousands and see the razzmatazz, the excitement and hear the noise of the crowd, it is quite an experience!
“When I look back it really was incredible – sometimes we race in front of one man and his dog!
In London as you came into the final 500metres the grandstands were on both sides of the water and you really couldn’t hear yourself think the noise was so great – it reverberated back and forth and it was just incredible.
Having that chance to be one of the lucky athletes who could compete in that incredible atmosphere is something I think I will only fully appreciate in years to come.”
Bill Lucas sounds cheerful over the phone - but clearly he is a different man from the one I discussed the Olympic dream with in June last year. He and his partner Sam Townsend got to the final of their coxless double sculls at the beautiful arena of Eton Downey, but came in fifth against men they had beaten earlier in the summer.
After four years of hard training and many more working to hone his skill and power as a rower, he says the result was hard to take.
“The whole point of being there, of putting in the incredible amount of work, was to get a good result – and we didn’t get the one we wanted,” he says. “In some ways our enjoyment of the whole event was linked to that, so it was difficult to get past it. In the end I had to almost force myself to appreciate the amazing nature of this massive and unique event.”
Bill had to deal with a problem he had not faced before – jealousy of his teammates. The GB Rowing team did very, some would say incredibly well during the Olympiad: the team won 9 medals in 13 events.
“Your first reaction, to be honest, is jealousy,” sighs Bill. “You feel a lot of strong emotions and you think ‘what if?’ a lot.
“But we have been training alongside these people for many years. We know them so well and more than anyone else we know the sacrifices they’ve made and the work they’ve put in to make it to the very top. So very quickly you feel happy for them and just pleased that Team GB did so well – we were part of that team even if we didn’t reach the heights we hoped.”
After the razzmatazz and the intense emotion of London, Bill has been looking to the future.
Bill took some time out after London to recharge his batteries – though still continued a little light training – before he started training for Rio in earnest in October.
He said he was grateful for the support of his family during and after the Olympics.
“My family have never been pushy,” he said. “Whatever decision I’ve made, they have always been very supportive. When I told them I was going to carry on and start training for Rio they were really pleased, but had not tried to influence me in any way.
“I’ve spent some time in Kingswear and Dartmouth - it’s been good to have some more relaxed times before the training starts in earnest again.”
It’s also been a time for Bill to support his wife, Francesca, who is going through her Law exams.
“After the last few years, when Fran has been so amazing in supporting me, it’s actually very good to flip it rounds and make her the priority for a while,” he says.
Bill will go to a special training camp in Australia in March, which will be followed by an International World Cup event in Sydney, where competitors will race on the course used during the 2000 Olympic games. It’s the starting event in a marathon of training and racing which ends at Brazil in 2016.
Bill is ready for the challenge.
“You sign up for four years – and hopefully Rio will be on the cards and a better result than London!”
I suggest that most people don’t have a clue what they are doing in four years time, whereas Bill has a pretty good idea. Is this scary? I ask.
“The worry is what I will do in four and a half years!” he laughs. “After that I’ll have to move into the real world!”
First Published March/April 2013 By The Dart