After taking a year off from the Rowing New Zealand High Performance Programme to complete her Masters, Emma Twigg, qualified for Rio in the last chance regatta in emphatic style. A former World Champion in the single skulls Emma is determined, dedicated and driven to be the best she can be. Rio will be her third Olympics and she is certainly set to triumph as a strong kiwi role model…
When did you first want to go to the Olympics?
Very young! I can remember Danyon Loader and after that it was Rob Wardell and the twins. The twins were obviously big heroes for me being Hawkes Bay girls. I actually played hockey originally in the era of Mandy Smith so those girls inspired me to be an Olympian. So I think at Intermediate School I probably set that as a goal for myself.
What does it mean to you to be an Olympian?
I think it’s something very special and obviously something that not a lot of people get to do so I have to keep reminding myself that and that its not necessarily normal. You’ve really got to make the most of the opportunities that you’ve been given and I think this year for me having to go through the qualification regattas just how special it is to be an Olympian and have the chance to go to an Olympic Games. There’s obviously a huge amount of pride that comes with it but being able to call yourself an Olympian is obviously something pretty special.
How do you feel as a female athlete representing NZ
I think it’s a bit of a responsibility. I don’t necessarily see myself as different to anyone else so it’s a bit of a funny thing to have young girls walking past you at rowing regattas whispering as they walk past you! You kind of want to say to them ‘come and say hello’ because I really don’t differentiate myself in anyway as a young 15 year old walking around the same regattas. I guess yes there’s a certain responsibility that comes with being with a role model and I think it’s a real privilege to inspire young girls. Again with being an Olympian there’s not a lot of people that have that opportunity so I think it’s an important responsibly to have these strong role models in sport. I’m pretty honored to be one of those.
Describe one of your hardest training sessions in the last 6 months
It’s was probably yesterdays. We do this one particular training session which is horrific. It is 1 minute on 1minute off or 30 seconds on 30 seconds off. Yesterday we got up to 50 pieces. So it was about 10km of maximal effort. You think 1minute off is nice but it’s not a lot of time to catch your breath. So yea that would certainly be up there with the hardest things we do especially in this lead up period. It’s all about lactate tolerance and being able to push on and know that on race day we are only going to do 2000m not 10,000m!
When you walk out to compete in Rio what will be the last thing you tell yourself?
I think this time around it will be about enjoying it and soaking it up. For me remembering the small things. It may be the last time that I go to the Olympics so I think I really need to make the most of every race that I have and remember the surroundings, the event and not be completely focused on winning a medal. I know that if I race to the best of my ability everything is going to be just fine.
What will you have for breakfast before you compete in Rio?
I generally will have banana on toast pre-race with a nice sprinkling of salt.
Aside from life as an elite athlete what else makes you get out of bed in the morning?
I think just trying to be the best that I can be. I think that potentially post athlete life is going to be difficult to replace that feeling of everyday going out there going out there to achieve what you want to achieve on the water or in the gym. Everything you do is very measured and I think that gets me up in the morning knowing that we have got certain goals to achieve for the day, the week and for the month. I think that’s probably going to be an important thing post rowing to have those small goals in whatever it may be.
What’s your ideal rest day?
Probably get up and go for a bit of a wander. Definitely a good coffee and a nice brunch. Time with friends and family just chilling – you can’t ask for more.
If you weren’t dominating the sporting world what would you be doing?
Probably probably playing some game or sport. I don’t really know. Being an athlete has just been such a huge part of my life and the next chapter is yet to unfold. No doubt I’ll throw myself into that with the same tenacity as I have done with my sport.
Finally, if you had the chance to acknowledge someone who has helped you get to this point in your sporting career who would it be and why?
That’s easy – Mum, Dad and my Brother. They’re my biggest fans regardless of the result. At this point and especially over the last 4 years my coach Gary and physiologist Dan Plews have been integral parts of making me the athlete that I am. They’ve given me confidence and installing in me a belief that I can be the best, that the training that we do will serve me well. If I execute what we want to no one in the world will be beat me.
Photo credit: Emma Twigg