British rower THOMAS seeks European redemption after Rio heartache
GLASGOW - British rower Graeme THOMAS is seeking redemption at the Glasgow 2018 European Championships, just two years after a virus left his dreams of a medal at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in tatters.
THOMAS was due to race in the men's quadruple sculls but flew back from Rio without being able to train, let alone compete.
"It's the only time I've ever taken a sleeping pill," said THOMAS, remembering that journey. "I didn't want to be inside my own head."
He recovered swiftly but the following season also began badly with a hip injury that required surgery.
By June last year, THOMAS was back in a boat, racing the double sculls with Angus GROOM (GBR), also recovering from hip surgery.
The duo lacked race experience and missed out on the world championship final. But when Peter LAMBERT (GBR) hurt his back in the warm-up for the men's quadruple sculls final, THOMAS had just five minutes' warning to get ready to race.
"That was one of the craziest things that's ever happened in rowing," THOMAS said. "But I'm glad I had so little time. The fact I just jumped in the boat kept it very instinctive. I just let the years of training and racing take over."
In a race in which no boat managed to break clear, the British quad clung on for silver, less than 0.3 seconds ahead of Estonia.
"It wasn't a consolation for Rio but it definitely felt like something," THOMAS said. "There was a lot of emotion there. Nobody else knew what Pete was going through like I did, and Pete, for the first time, probably got a feeling of what it was like for me in Rio."
For the 2018 season, THOMAS was selected in the quad with John COLLINS, Jonny WALTON and Tom BARRAS. A change to the seating order meant they under-performed at the second world cup regatta of the season, but at the third world cup event in Lucerne, Switzerland, the quartet stormed past the opposition in the closing stages to take gold.
"After a good result in Lucerne, the crew's probably at an all-time high of confidence," THOMAS said. "I'm really looking forward to racing the Europeans. There's a European title at stake, that's a big deal."
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