THE BIG INTERVIEW: REBECCA ROMERO
Rowing's loss has been cycling’s gain. Since a back problem forced her to retire from her first sport, where she won a world title in 2005 to add to a silver medal from the Olympic Games in Athens the previous year, Rebecca Romero has made a startling recovery and gone on to take the cycling world by storm.
Just five months after her first competition, Romero brought home the silver medal in the 3,000-metre pursuit at the World Championships and broke the British record.
The 27 year old is now intent on becoming only the second woman to win Olympic medals in two different sports and began her countdown by winning her first national pursuit title last month.
CW: You had an outstanding first year of competition. Have you been surprised by your rate of progress?
RR: Yes, massively. I’m having to move my goalposts all the time and when I had some time off after the World Championships I tried to re-establish my goals for this season, just based on what I had already achieved.
How high are you aiming with the World Championships on home soil in Manchester and then the Olympic Games?
RR: I’ve set myself high targets. Basically, I want to become world champion and Olympic champion in the pursuit, and I don’t just want to scrape it. I think if I really focus on the pursuit this year I can hopefully take it to new levels and put a Rebecca Romero stamp on the event.
How are you approaching the new season to make this happen?
RR: It’s a big leap. At the beginning of the year there are two doors. One door says flowers and mountains, and just carry on with your training and you will probably have a good year, and there is another one which says, like, this is a scary world and a big step, but if you take it the rewards can be high. I’ve gone for the second one. I’ve got three months to the World Championships and then five more to Beijing, and it’s all going to plan so far.
Has your competitive edge come from your previous career in rowing?
RR: Yes, that was good experience, but just knowing what I did last year lets me know it’s possible.
Do you ever wish you had started cycling earlier?
RR: I always think everything happens for a reason at the right times, but yes. When I think about having such good results I do feel a bit disappointed that it could have happened a lot sooner if I’d stumbled into cycling over rowing, and I wonder what could have been. But, as I said, everything happens for a reason and now I’ve got the time pressure to really focus me.
If I’d come into cycling four years earlier, or even two years, I wouldn’t have that now. But it’s there, and it’s like every day is ticking by really quickly.
Does the idea of being a world champion in two sports provide motivation?
RR: It’s secondary, but it is another driving factor and it’s nice to think you could have a bit of fame historically for putting your mark down like that.
You won your first British pursuit title at Manchester in October and broke the championship record, but your first ride didn’t go exactly to plan and you appeared to be in some distress at the finish.
RR: I was looking to go out and give it everything in the qualifying ride, and the time I was hoping to come back with just didn’t happen. Then it all went a bit pear-shaped, but that was actually the first 3km effort I had done since the World Championship and it kind of hit me like a truck, really.
I did recover well for the final, though. I think I knew it was in there and I just had to make sure I got it out. I managed to salvage something, and for October it was good.
So you’re happy with the point you are at now?
RR: Yes, I know where I am in my training and it’s looking good.