Phil Wilson - My Olympic experience

Phil Wilson

The New Zealand Rowing Foundation is proud to have supported many of our development athletes over the years at Junior and Under 23 level by awarding grants towards tour costs.

Olympic gold medallist Phil Wilson was one of those Under 23 athletes that received support from the foundation in 2017…

'Going into my first Olympics, I knew things were going to be very different to any other regatta I’d be to previously. I had heard stories that the pressure can really come on, but we had made it through the “Regatta of Death” so to be at the Olympics was even more special. 

We had prepared for the heat of Tokyo, but you still had to limit the time you spent out on the water to reduce the effects of potential heat stroke. This meant using the time we did have out on the Seaforest Waterway the best we could to fine tune the last little bits before heading into the heat, repechage and final. 

After qualifying for the final through the repechage, the eight had been building confidence in our race plan to put our best on course when it counted. Sitting in the blocks, the stakes were high, but I still felt relaxed. We had done all the work that mattered to be here, ready to fly. The buzzer goes and we are off, hell to leather. 

The first 500 is a blur but it’s our mid-race rhythm that counts. Stepping down, the pinch begins but the power of the crew creates the rhythm we know is fast. Fast enough to push through the other crews?

I can feel our boat edging through the crews next to us, ready to push even further in the third 500m. Ahead of the benchmark of the last Olympiad, the Germans. The rhythm, the power. It’s all so good. We are moving perfectly in sync. The adrenaline begins to kick in. The rate is coming up, the speed is increasing. It’s a sprint for the line.

The finish line runs under the boat, and I look around to find out the result. Have we done it? We have done it! Olympic Champions! 

Once the medal is around my neck it truly sinks in. Against all odds, we won it!

The Olympic journey doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years of dedication particularly through the age group teams to be able to compete on rowing’s highest stage. Through my two years competing in the New Zealand U23 Team, I began to learn the level that I needed to perform day in, day out. With the success of a World Championship and disappointment in not achieving my goals at U23 level, I wanted to keep earning success on the world stage but must learn from the tough times. An important stepping stone on the journey to where I am today.'

Phil Wilson

Olympic Gold Medallist, Men's 8+