Olympic rower, John Smith, has never been afraid to take on big challenges; therefore, it should come as no surprise that he has decided to move up a weight category as part of his preparation for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Smith (Tuks/HPC), who has won gold medals at the Olympic Games as well as the World Championships as a lightweight rower, readily admits that he is in for a challenge. Not only will he have to gain 20 kg, he also needs to become much stronger.
One of the reasons Smith decided to make a 'career change' is that he is 1,87 m tall and it has become increasingly difficult for him to keep his weight under 70 kg over the last two years.
'I was beginning to feel like a boxer who is forever battling to make it at the weigh-in. To be honest, I never felt at my strongest at 70 kg but that was the weight I had to race at.'
According to Smith, very few rowers have made the transition from lightweight to heavyweight successfully. 'I know of only one or two rowers who were able to do so but that is not going to stop me from trying to make it work. I understand the challenge and believe that if I put my mind to it nothing will stop me from becoming a competitive rower in the heavier category.'
The problem with moving up a weight category is that there are no limits. Everybody who competes as a lightweight weighs 70 kilograms. This means the playing field is level as far as power output is concerned. In the heavier category there is no limit. This means that rowers can really bulk up and become stronger and more powerful.
'I have already managed to gain 12 kg since the Olympic Games in Rio. My goal is to weigh 90 kg, but it is not only about getting heavier, you have to become stronger as well. I am doing a lot of strength and conditioning exercises in the gymnasium at the moment. I need to become stronger to be able to increase my power output when rowing. The one thing that counts in my favour is my very sound technique, which enables me to row quite efficiently. But it will be difficult to gain a seat in one of our two heavyweight crews. Lawrence Brittain and Shaun Keeling won silver in the men's pairs at the Olympic Games, while Vince Breet, Jake Green, Jonty Smith and David Hunt just missed out on winning the bronze medal in the men's fours.'
As a lightweight, Smith was part of the men's lightweight fours team that won the gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. At the 2014 World Championships, Smith and James Thompson won the gold medal in the lightweight men's double sculls.