Newbury rower Matt Rossiter opens up about support after Olympic heartbreak with Team GB in Tokyo
Newbury rower Matt Rossiter was left disappointed at the lack of support that he and his men’s coxless fours team received by previous Olympians after they suffered a shock defeat in their Tokyo 2020 final.
Rossiter, along with Sholto Carnegie, Oliver Cook and Rory Gibbs, veered off track in their gold medal pursuit, almost hitting the Italian boat as they finished fourth and missed out on a medal.
It’s the first time since 1996 that the men’s four failed to win a gold medal and Rossiter admitted, exclusively to the Newbury Weekly News, that it was hard to take.
“There is a feeling in the team that individuals from previous generations haven’t been overly supportive.
“They might be uneducated on the television with what is going on in the team and that opinion might be made viable because they are on the television and people respect their opinion.
“Those guys were my heroes, but it seems like at the final hurdle you want people in your corner not necessarily taking jabs when the team has not done well.”
Rossiter did, however, explain how proud he is to be part of a team that boasts an incredible legacy and it is down to previous Olympians that he has the opportunity to perform at the highest level.
“Everyone who has represented British rowing before has put it where it has got too,” said the 31-year-old.
“I am on a lottery grant, I go to my national training centre and I row in the best boats in the world and that is all thanks to those guys who built to put British rowing in an amazing position.”
Only two rowing medals were won in Japan, a silver in the men’s quadruple sculls and a bronze in the men’s eight, resulting in Britain’s worst Olympic rowing performance for 49 years.
Having failed to win a medal in Tokyo, it has made Rossiter more determined to try and represent Team GB at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
“I was always planning on rowing for one more year, but after coming fourth in the fashion we did I am desperate to have another crack at another games.
“The Olympics were very different due to covid, so if I can make it to Paris it would be brilliant to experience everything.
“You always look at yourself, but it was a young team and there were a lot of near-misses, so it’s not like we need to go back to the drawing board.
“I think we can learn lessons and build for the future because I think there will be a lot of fire in the belly with coaches and athletes to be on the medal podium come Paris.
“It really hurts and I was nearly in tears watching the medal ceremony, so I think there will be a lot of people who will be motivated to get back into it all.”
The Leander club member explained how it will take a long time before he can get over the result in Tokyo.
“I still feel really gutted about how the final went and I think that will take a long time to make sense and to be at peace with it.
“It really hurts and in no part of our planning was not getting a medal because our plan was to win the gold medal.
“I hope that, in time, I can be really proud at getting to the Olympics and making the final.
“It was an amazing experience and, although we didn’t do as well as we hoped, I still fulfilled one of my childhood dreams by going to the games.”
A lot has been said since their disappointment in Tokyo and people have questioned the preparation from the British Rowing team.
Jürgen Grobler, the most successful coach in Olympic history, departed his role in August, but Rossiter explained that it didn’t change their approach for Tokyo.
“I think that at the start there was shock [when he left] because there was no indication that he wouldn’t finish the job off, but in reality he has done an amazing job over the last 40 years.
“Not much changed though because we had a really good leader in Steve Trapmore who came in. He did a really good job and the training stayed very similar.
“After the reshuffle, not much changed,” admitted Rossiter. “The team prepared as well as they could have if Jürgen was at the helm because Steve is an experienced guy as he won the Olympics in 2000.”
The performances from the rowing teams in Tokyo left the group pretty flat, but Rossiter is confident they’ll be able to bounce back quickly.
“There has been a lot said about the culture in our team and the fact our coach left last year, but the team has been off the pace just a tiny bit over the Olympics cycle.
“A lot of the teams, apart from us, had a good row and ended up coming fourth and that’s all you can do.
“The mood is flat, because the team left for Tokyo with great hope and we came back with not what we wanted.
“The team won three golds and two silvers in Rio, so to come away with a bronze and silver this time, people are absolutely gutted, but people are proud with how they raced, as ultimately in life all you can do is your best.”
He also added how unique the whole Olympics experience was, given the fact that restrictions were in place all around the country due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Athletes had to complete covid tests on a daily basis and wear masks at all times, but these were only minor things according to the rower.
“Deep down I am chuffed that it happened because in January and February, the public in Tokyo desperately didn’t want it to happen because covid cases were going through the roof.
“Of course you want the Olympics to happen as you see it on the television, but it was just epic it happened at all because it’s important to remember that at points there might have been nothing.
“I think during the covid pandemic, British Rowing have assured us that the Olympics was going ahead and made us all feel like we’re in a good place.”