Alumni Tom Solesbury talks boats, Beijing and beyond

_You arrived at Warwick as a fresher and had in excess of seventy sports clubs to choose from, but you choose the rowing club despite having never been near a boat before. Why? _

I had played a lot of rugby and football at school, but had never had the chance to row. I liked the idea of rowing because it was a new challenge. The University Boat Club seemed like a friendly and well run club so I gave it a go and I’m glad I did!

_I presume it didn’t take you long to find a seat in the 1st VIII?_

Well, rowing is a technical sport and you have to work hard at the technical aspects as well as the physical side of things. In my first year at Warwick I rowed in a crew made of entirely of novice rowers and we had a great time!

I made the 1st VIII in my second year. Being big definitely helps with rowing but it’s not essential, you need determination to stick with it and push yourself.

_Was the Boat Club better in your glory days, how do you feel the modern-day Club compares?_

I have many great memories of my time in UWBC and the club is even better now with some great rowers, both men and women, as well as excellent coaching and fantastic equipment.

The top boat is the same make you’ll see in the Olympic finals. The club also has a private stretch of water by Warwick Castle which offers a great chance to get off campus.

I was down at Henley this year and saw the Warwick 1st VIII and they were big guys moving the boat well and it looked like they were enjoying themselves and going fast which was great to see. UWBC has an experienced coaching team including Rob Fellowes who coxed me when I was at Warwick.

The coaching he provides to the club is invaluable and for anyone joining, make sure you pick his brains about rowing because he really knows his stuff! The club has continued the tradition of going on training camps to Spain in December on the former Barcelona Olympic rowing course and this is a great time to improve technique and fitness in good weather.

What I have heard from the guys at the club suggests that the support from the university is second to none, and I know how helpful this is.

_Leaving Warwick you balanced qualifying as a solicitor with rowing internationally. How did you manage to balance the two?_

It was certainly tough, but the experience I had of balancing rowing at Warwick and doing a tough degree really helped me with this. If you want to make it in rowing there are no shortcuts, it’s a lot of hard work!

_If you think of all the races you’ve competed in, which do you rate as the most memorable? Surely it’s the Beijing Olympics? _

Actually, I’m not sure it would be the Olympics. We didn’t do so well in Beijing which was a massive disappointment after putting in so much work for it.

Since Beijing I have tried to put the racing there out of my mind and use the disappointment to spur me on for future races.

Perhaps the most memorable race I have done is the Oxford vs Cambridge Varsity boat race in 2009 for Oxford, mainly because we won!

The boat race is completely unique in sport and winning was a feeling like no other I have experienced.
When Cambridge broke into a temporary lead, did the thought flash across your mind that you might lose?_

I think that psychology is very important in sport and if you are thinking about the outcome of a rowing race while you’re still racing, it is unlikely you will be producing your best performance.

We were well prepared for every possible scenario in the boat race, including being led by Cambridge so when it happened my mind was clear and I made sure I was producing my best rowing and pulling as hard as I could.

I was confident that Cambridge would not be able to sustain the pace they were going at and that we would.

_Four miles of rowing flat out. I’m guessing that’s painful?_

It certainly is! The boat race was the toughest race I have ever done in terms of physical pain but physical pain is something rowers have to go through and while they may moan about it, I think most secretly love pushing themselves!

_You’ve competed at the world championships, the Olympics, in the Oxford v Cambridge boat race… What’s next? London 2012?_

Absolutely! The plan is to get selected and then aim for a medal. But that’s a long way off and there are lots of important steps along the way. Hopefully someone from Warwick will be joining me in London!


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