Rowing star Matt Haywood is not letting the spectre of Olympic qualification get in the way of his hunt for global gold at next week’s World Rowing Championships.
Haywood is set to take to the water in Belgrade in the men’s quadruple sculls, where he will be hoping to upgrade on last year’s silver in Racice.
The Nottingham native is also looking to book his boat’s ticket to Paris, which he will secure with a top seven finish in Serbia, but the 25-year-old insisted he is not letting thoughts of next year distract him from pursuit of world gold next week.
“Medals first, qualification second is the aim,” said Haywood.
🏆2023 World Rowing Championships 🏆
The #GBRowingTeam are tackling 7 days of racing in Belgrade, Serbia 🇷🇸 🇬🇧
Find live results on the British Rowing website 👇 https://t.co/kUeNKs5I4l
Watch the racing on @WorldRowing's live stream 👇 https://t.co/fQ1ppa633I pic.twitter.com/v1Z30ezX0H
— British Rowing (@BritishRowing) September 4, 2023
“We have definitely got more than a good chance to do that. “We are definitely up there on our best day so that’s our aim, and if we get to the final, we can also say we’ve qualified [for the Olympics], now let’s focus on medals.
“We have won a couple of medals this year, bronze and silver at the earlier World Cups, and it has definitely been an upwards project.
“After coming fourth at Europeans and then progressively getting better, we would like to go further at the World Championships, but it is going to be a tough field, there is some tough opposition.
“It is going to be much tighter racing, but we would like to think we will still be coming out on the right side.”
While Haywood has a steely focus on the task at hand in Belgrade, the lure of Olympic glory is impossible to ignore.
Great Britain took silver in the event in Tokyo two years ago, but Haywood is one of three additions to a much-changed crew that will look to go one better in Paris next year.
And despite the relatively new nature of the team, Haywood revealed two years of intense training has instilled the faith required in each other to finish atop the podium in both Belgrade and Paris.
“We are definitely looking ahead to Paris,” he added.
The GB men’s four (M4-) have qualified for the 2024 Olympic Games!
Oli Wilkes, David Ambler, Matt Aldridge and Freddie Davidson become the 4th #GBRowingTeam boat today to book a spot at @Paris2024 🇬🇧👏@TNLUK @TeamGB pic.twitter.com/8OEMRP0sRY
— British Rowing (@BritishRowing) September 7, 2023
“We still have to have selection but as a team we have to look that far ahead and plan a cycle.
“We always have it in the back of our mind, there is always mention of it. We can’t ignore that fact, that is what we are all working towards for four years.
“It has got to be mentioned every now and again but there is a fine balance to be found in knowing that it’s coming but not putting it on a pedestal, so it becomes too much to deal with; we have to treat it like any other normal event.
“Ideally, we would like to think the team now will be the team then, and we are working hard to be there.
“You spend all this time with each other and it helps build up a level of trust, not only do you get to know each other and have a laugh but you build that trust so when it comes to sitting on that start line you know you have done everything you can and the whole crew has done everything they can.
“That personally puts me in a very good place and makes me feel very positive moving forward.”
British Rowing is searching for the next generation of GB Rowing Olympians & Paralympians - could that be you? The Olympic Pathway programme recruits and develops individuals with no prior rowing experience who have the potential to become Olympic rowers. Learn more at britishrowing.org/performance-development-academies. Similarly, visit our website to learn more about our successful Paralympic Programme and register for testing: https://www.britishrowing.org/gb-rowing-team/para/. The GB Rowing Team is supported by the National Lottery Sports Fund.