Reigning Olympic champion Mohamed Sbihi is hopeful GB can carry their golden momentum into this summer’s Tokyo Games after a stunning start to the 2021 rowing season, writes Peter White.
The 33-year was part of the coxless four crew who topped the podium in Rio – Team GB’s fifth consecutive victory in the event – four years after he picked up bronze in the eight in London.
Since success in Brazil Sbihi has finished third at three World Championships, but such fortunes changed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic with wins in the eight at the European Championships and World Rowing Cup earlier this year.
Victory in the latter saw GB pip world champions Germany in Lucerne, Switzerland, and while full of confidence Maidenhead-based Sbihi is anticipating an almighty battle on sport’s greatest stage.
“We know there’s still a lot of work to do but the mood in the camp is very good and we’ve put ourselves in the best possible position to attack the next few weeks,” said Sbihi, who is working with Purplebricks to encourage the nation to get behind Team GB on their journey to Tokyo.
“We won by the smallest possible margin in Lucerne, so there’s certainly no complacency amongst the group and we’re looking at it as if we’re as much losers as they were.
“That defeat for them is just fuel for their motivation. We want to win of course but they have a carrot to chase now, and based on the last few years I’d say they’re the favourites. It’s up to us to make sure we keep up our recent form.”
Having shelved plans to hang up his oars in the wake of the Olympics’ postponement Sbihi’s hopes to cap a glittering career with successive golds are driven by the recent arrival of seven-month-old son Idris.
“I’m not 100 per cent sure what lies in store for me after Tokyo but it’s more than likely going to be my last Olympics, and it’d be nice to sign off at the top,” he said.
“At the start of the cycle I wanted to prove I could do it myself, but now it’s more about being successful for Idris. He won’t remember it, but if I became an Olympic champion while he’s alive that’d be pretty cool.”
While Covid-19 restrictions mean Idris and wife Rachael won’t be there to cheer him on in Japan, Sbihi is hopeful the home support drummed up by the Purplebricks campaign will get him over the line when it matters most.
He added: “I’ll make sure Rach sends me plenty of photos and videos of Idris and keeps me updated with how they’re getting on. With the time difference I’m hoping he can help me out by wanting a night feed or two!
“On the water we’ll miss the British support, because they’re always the loudest and turn up at the crack of dawn with their flags.
“The Purplebricks campaign is huge for every athlete - it will push us that extra yard knowing that everyone is screaming and cheering us on back in the UK.”
Mohamed Sbihi is working with Purplebricks to encourage the nation to get behind Team GB on their journey to Tokyo, with the same amazing home support as London 2012. Visit @PurplebricksUK or https://www.purplebricks.co.uk/team-gb