I’ve known Olympic rower Samson Loch, 29, since before he had pubic hair. I played sport with him through high school – rugby (he was bigger), ski raced (he was faster), cricket (he was an easy wicket) and we rowed together for about five years. He has wanted to compete in the Olympics since he knew they existed. He’s relatively short for an Olympic rower but he defied the odds and it’s a testament to his insane training, discipline, and lifestyle (and a healthy dose of confidence).
As part of Billabout’s Olympic coverage we’re chatting to a few of the Aussie sports heroes competing in London. Samson’s up first. Best of luck, mate.
Where have you been based?
Domestically in Canberra and then at the European Training Centre in Varese, Italy.
How’s your Olympic prep going?
Good, over a long enough time frame there are always ups and downs, but we’re confident going into this regatta.
How much pressure do you feel you’re under?
In my opinion, pressure is directly related to expectation and preparedness. If you have high expectations, but aren’t properly prepared, then pressure will be high. Although its the Olympics and a lot is at stake, being prepared means that “pressure” isn’t really an issue. I aim for a sort of surreal calm prior to racing that comes from absolute confidence. The Olympics are our Mt. Everest and everything is a bit more exciting.
Talk us though the atmosphere among the athletes?
The team thing is pretty interesting because we have our crew (the eight) and our coaches, which is our team. We are also part of the Australian Rowing Team, which is part of the Australian Olympic Team. We are staying at the rowing village (which is separate from the main Olympic Village) until after competition and so we haven’t seen any of the other Aussie athletes thus far. As a rowing team the general feeling is good and we’re eager to stick it to the Poms. We are just eager to start racing.
What did you learn from the Beijing Olympics?
That we didn’t prepare sufficiently and we were exposed at exactly the wrong time. What we’ve worked on this time around is to prepare best for when it counts most. Which seems obvious, but in the eight it is crucial to acknowledge that everything pertains to race day.
Favourite item in the Olympic kit?
How are the Volley’s?
Good, but they’re our “ceremony” shoes. I think they’ll get a flogging in the second week.
How much are you training at the moment?
Just two rows a day.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an athlete?
Either a dog trainer, coach, a writer or hooligan.
How much do you eat a day?
This varies depending on the amount of work we’re putting in, but between 3000-6000 calories. This is surprisingly not as much as I’d like to eat. My ultimate menu would differ quite a lot from my ultimate training menu. I want to eat eggs, hash browns, pancakes, ice cream, pizza, chocolate, burgers and beer (in no particular order). What I tend to eat is berries, turkey, chicken, tuna, salmon, greens, apples and nuts. Every now and then I include one or two items from the previous list.
What’s the best way to celebrate a win?
Having a few beers with the crew is pretty much the only way to celebrate. We usually haven’t drunk in so long that we’re all pissed instantly. Nowadays everything is very professional, so we usually race, pack-up and start training again.
Best way to get over a loss?
I’m not sure there is a good way. I go through varying waves of anger and disappointment, but it’s a lot more constructive to use it as a learning experience and figure out what went wrong. I invariably recall loses years after they occurred without reason, but I try and get over the initial grief as soon as possible.
How are the facilities in London looking?
Top notch so far. I have my own room, the course is good, the food is good and the weather has been surprisingly cooperative so far.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
I was once told “It’s never enough” by Chris Ahrens (3-seat of the USA 2004 Olympic Gold Medal eight), referring to margin of lead in a race or margin of victory; this was his way of saying keep your foot always on the gas.
What do you think about before the race begins?
I think about staying loose, focusing on the first stroke and having fun. I tend to be overtly competitive, so I avoid getting overly pumped-up.
What are a few songs on your pre race playlist?
My pump-up stuff is Skrillex (Bangarang and Kyoto), Labrinth (Last Time – Knife Party Remix), DJ Fresh (Gold Dust – Flux Pavilion Remix), Swedish House Mafia, Carley Rae Jepsen (Call Me Greyhound – Kap Slap Bootleg), Awolnation (Sail – Dubstep remix) to name a few. Some of my consistent happy songs are Lupe Fiasco (The Show Goes On), Cypress Hill (Hits From The Bong), Nelly (Country Grammar), The Bloody Beetroots (Awesome) and Kid Cudi (Pursuit of Happiness).
What’s the plan post games?
I’m heading back to Australia with the team for two days before flying to New York for a mate’s wedding in Maine.
I heard they ran out of condoms during the Sydney Olympics; are athletes a frisky bunch?
We keep hearing this, but I just watched half my crew gather around one iPad to watch a youtube “Fail” compilation video before getting into bed by 10. If there is action going on – it isn’t here. All I can remember from the Beijing village is drinking warm beer, eating cheeseburgers and watching field hockey. I imagine this time will be much the same, but hopefully with a gold medal and cold beer.
What are you pre race phone calls with your Mum and Dad like?
Usually it helps if they don’t make a massive deal of it. I’ve been doing this awhile, which means they know the drill. Obviously it can be exciting, but I prefer that sort of stuff to be perfunctory at that point.
Explain what ‘drop the hammer’ means in a race?
It is basically just going for broke. Pushing at max capacity that decimates the competition. In a race, dropping the hammer must evoke or exploit all positive momentum.
Where are you going to put your gold medal when you come home?
Our 7-seat, Matt Ryan, temporarily traded his Beijing Silver Medal for a rickshaw before it was retrieved by some teammates. I probably won’t do that.
Samson has an awesome blog called Drop the Hammer : “In a way the blog is all about me, but not about me at all. What I really want is for someone to occasionally find a bit of information or inspiration they otherwise wouldn’t have. If I can also try varying nutritional, training, competition and lifestyle protocols that might be a bit ‘out there’, but that have merit, then that’s a plus.”
Interview by Pete Maiden