Nottingham rower Matt Haywood called for cool heads as the rotating cast of Britain’s men’s quad stress-test a new combination into the European Championships, writes Sportsbeat's Tom Harle.
Haywood has successfully stepped into the boat that won a silver at the Tokyo Olympics, Britain’s first Olympic medal in that event.
Jack Beaumont, Angus Groom and now Harry Leask have all retired from that history-making crew with Tom Barras the only man to pursue a second Olympics in Paris.
With Leask stepping away this winter, Callum Dixon is the latest to step into the breach and Haywood wants that change to inform expectations at the European Championships.
“A medal is definitely the aim and that’s what we’re always going for,” said Haywood.
🇬🇧 European Rowing Championships: Men's Squad 🇬🇧
The following crews have selected to represent the #GBRowingTeam Men's Squad at the European Rowing Championships from 25 – 28 May in Bled, Slovenia 🚣
Full team list 👇https://t.co/d2yo6NDOJS pic.twitter.com/YEnRVO4rcL
— British Rowing (@BritishRowing) May 15, 2023
“But it will be our first time racing as a crew and we’ve not been in the boat for very long.
“It will be good to see how we can progress through the regatta. If we can put together three solid races and say we’ve done our best, just needing to find some extra speed, then that’s okay.
“If you go in straight away and win gold medals, you’ve got nowhere to go. Hopefully it can be a building block and if it isn’t a medal, we can’t walk away annoyed.”
The European Championships will be held at Lake Bled, Slovenia from May 25-28.
Haywood and George Bourne first stepped in for last year’s Europeans in Munich, where the quad finished a disappointing fourth.
So he knows exactly how Dixon - a former member of the British Sailing Team - is feeling ahead of his major Championship bow in the boat.
“Callum’s brilliant,” said Haywood. “He’s a very good athlete and he’s got some good international experience.
“He’s got a really brilliant mindset towards racing, performance and how to deal with a Championship.
“He doesn’t have to learn how to deal with the pressure, he just needs to adjust to a bigger boat. He’s doing a great job and adds a sense of security in that bow seat.”
Emerging from Munich disappointment, Haywood helped turn things around for the crucial season-ending World Championships in Belgrade, taking a silver medal.
“My role is just to provide the power,” said Haywood. “I’m backing up Tom, who’s setting the rhythm, and I’m helping to get that through to the back of the boat.
“My role is to put my head down and pull hard.
“Off the water, I’m definitely more on the pessimistic and realistic side of things.
“I try to have a grounding effect on the crew. I have a good idea on what we need to do technically and trying to help the crew as a whole progress.”
British Rowing is the governing body for the sport and is responsible for the development of rowing in England and the training and selection of rowers to represent Great Britain. The GB Rowing Team is supported by the National Lottery Sports Fund. To find out more, and to follow the team, head to https://www.britishrowing.org/