Rising Star – March 2019

Two time under-23 World Champion Sam Meijer is at home on both sides of the Atlantic.  The British sculler is rowing and studying at Harvard University in the United States but competing for Team Great Britain.  He tells how rowing – and life – compares on both sides of the ocean and what’s in store next.

I’ve spent winter… training, studying, standard stuff! I went to Spain for a camp with the British under-23 team and then on to Sarasota for a training camp with Harvard in January. We can’t train on the water here in Boston due to the weather so we spend the winter training indoors on the rowing machines and in the gym.

This summer is my last in the under-23s and… I am comfortable with moving up to the senior level. The boats are quicker and the races can be tougher, but at the end of the day it’s the same sport. I was the spare for the senior team this past summer so I got a bit of a feel for the regatta environment then. It all seems to be very similar to under-23 or junior level in terms of feel, I think the boats just end up going a bit quicker.

Rowing in Britain vs rowing in the United States… The Harvard programme has a fairly international feel, with lots of athletes from all around the world so I don’t know if I’ve got to experience a fully American programme. The squads are a lot bigger here than in the UK so here is a much greater team feel. The racing season is pretty different too: we race every weekend in April and half of May against different universities and we race only in eights which is different than in the UK. I think there is a perception that American rowing is less technical than British rowing or that Americans spend less time doing lower intensity training.  From my experience, these aren’t accurate stereotypes.

It’s hard to pick one favourite place to train… I learnt to row on the Tideway in London so I’m really fond of that stretch. Lake Sarnen in Switzerland is a cool place. It’s where the Swiss team train and we used to go there on training camp when I was at school. It’s a beautiful lake, 5km by 1km, surrounded by mountains. Silvretta (Austria) is also a pretty special place to be. The history of the place with the British team and the power of the mountains around it makes training there an incredible experience.

When balancing studying and rowing… I try to be very careful and deliberate with prioritisation. At Harvard and in life in general, there are so many options – ways to apply yourself and draw on your time – that I think it is very important to be clear about which ones you want, and are able to, apply yourself to effectively. Once you have this, I think it falls into place.

I got into rowing when… I had to pick a sport to do at school and was tired of embarrassing myself playing ball sports, so decided to give rowing a try.

I stuck with it because… I enjoy constantly pushing myself to improve and seeing what I am capable of. It’s also a nice break from academics and being part of a team is great fun.

The best rowing advice I’ve had is… focus on the stroke you’re on.

My next goal is… to win the national championship with Harvard.

My rowing dream is… just to be the best that I can. I don’t really have a specific goal, I just want to push myself as far as I can. If that means I’m good enough to win some medals, then that’s a great outcome.

For fun I… Row! Also hike, play the piano, cycle, climb, hang out with friends.