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Andy Hodge prepares for 'last few days of my life'
Skipton's Andy Hodge is so focused on retaining his Olympic title in the men’s four that he views the build-up to Saturday’s final as “the last few days of my life”.
Britain’s flagship crew, seeking to extend a golden dynasty that stretches back through three Olympic Games, won a commanding heat victory today to reach the semi-finals.
Hodge, Pete Reed, Tom James and Alex Gregory beat Romania by just over a length in a strong response to their chief rivals Australia, who took their own heat in an Olympic best time.
Hodge was confident Britain had improved from last month’s Munich World Cup Regatta, when they were beaten by Australia in both the semi-final and the final.
Today’s performance confirmed that in his own mind.
But such is the intensity of competition posed by Australia and the United States that Hodge knows he must devote every last ounce of his being into delivering gold for Great Britain.
“You have two questions when you go onto the water. Can you replicate what you’ve been doing in training? And is it fast enough? Today we put a nice tick in both boxes,” Hodge said.
“The boat just feels electric. The guys have all got their tails up.
“Everyone is gunning for fast times. We’re preparing to fight every inch, for every inch.
“It’s going to be a big battle but I think we’re going to be right in the mix to win gold and give ourselves every opportunity.
“These are the last few days of my life, as far as I’m concerned. It is a case of get to the final and then it all resets.”
The United States won their heat and are also looking dangerous - but there is an Ashes feel about the simmering rivalry between the British and Australian crews.
Drew Ginn, the veteran Australian oarsman, claimed in the build-up to the Olympics that his crew’s victory in Munich had “scared the hell” out of Great Britain.
Hodge enjoys the fighting talk.
“The Aussies are great characters. It’s good to hear. They’ve got a lot of fight in them, it’s just what we need for an Olympic Games,” Hodge said.
“No one is going to lie down in this event. It’s a great event to be in and I am really proud to be in the lead British boat.”
James is happy to concede the Australians are favourites - it only serves to drive the British crew on harder.
“They won the last race between us so they are a good prospect for getting a gold medal. That’s realistic,” James said.
“Tough racing is why you do this, for something memorable. If it’s tough, and you come through and you win, it’s more memorable.”
Hodge, Reed and James came through a tough final in Beijing four years ago to win Britain’s third consecutive coxless four Olympic title, following the triumphs in Sydney and Athens.
GB Rowing’s head men’s coach Jurgen Grobler has never failed to win gold in the event, and that track record imbues a sense of confidence in the crew.
Gregory dismissed Australia’s Olympic record as irrelevant, insisting Britain are yet to hit top gear - the inference being ‘when we do, look out’.
“We had a good margin on the field so we didn’t need to show everything we have got,” Gregory said.
“For us, that was exactly what we needed, a seven out of ten. It doesn’t matter about the times.
“It was a great start for us. Now we want to get better in the semis and even better in the final.”