Rowing across the Atlantic pushed Olympic gold medal-winning rower James Cracknell to draw on reserves of mental strength he never even knew he had.
Addressing Personnel Today’s HR Directors Club breakfast briefing in Birmingham, Cracknell – who won gold with the coxless four in the Sydney and Athens Olympics – said that surviving the 50-day Atlantic ordeal “came down to mental strength that I didn’t tap into as a sportsman”.
Cracknell took part in the Atlantic Rowing Race with TV presenter Ben Fogle at the end of last year. Their trip was beset with problems: they ran out of food, their boat capsized, and the chafing from their clothes left their bottoms sore and spotty after rowing in two-hour shifts, 24 hours a day.
“The body may have been weak, but the mind never gave up. Your mind and body can take so much more than you think,” said Cracknell.
When preparing for the Olympics, coach Jurgen Grobler made the crew think about the pain of losing as an incentive to keep them going. “When you get to the pain in the middle of a race, it hurts. But it’ll hurt more over the next few years when you look back and know that you didn’t win,” added Cracknell.