Next Stop Tokyo: Sam Bosworth

Tokyo 2020 Athlete Interviews

3 minute read
Words Tom Ransley
Photography Benedict Tufnell & Vera Bucsu
Published 16.07.21

Sam Bosworth, 27, from Cambridge, New Zealand, will compete in his first Olympics at Tokyo 2020 as the coxswain of the New Zealand men’s eight. His crew won the 2021 Final Olympic Qualification Regatta and secured their ticket to Tokyo 2020. Originally from Christchurch, Sam relocated to improve his coxing career. Sam made history in 2017 when he became the first male coxswain to win an international women’s rowing event and later that season was the first male cox to podium at a World Rowing Championships in a women’s crew. In 2019 he switched to the men’s eight, and coxed his crew, including Hamish Bond and Mahé Drysdale, to 6th place at the World Rowing Championships in Linz. He shares his thoughts on Tokyo 2020.

Photo New Zealand M8+ coxswain Sam Bosworth
Credit Vera Bucsu

How’s your season? This season we raced domestically, mostly in pairs and fours. We also have the in-house Winter Series where we race against other selected New Zealand crews set off with time-handicaps. Our only international racing this year was the Olympic qualification regatta (FOQR). It sounds funny to say as the last chance regatta is ideally not where you want to be but I think it was a huge advantage given the circumstances of Covid-19 and having not raced internationally since 2019. It was a great learning experience: As a crew we came together and preformed well in a high pressure situation. I remembered how much I love racing internationally and from the two FOQR races I learnt a lot about my crew and how they respond in a real race situation.

The eight is a complicated beast! How do you fit into that puzzle? I believe that a good coxswain has great rapport with each member of the crew. I try to listen to each individual about what they want to hear, and work my calls around them. Feedback is vital and I try to be very receptive to feedback so I can get the best out of the crew. I bring a calm, collected approach to my cox’s roles on and off the water. I also work closely with our coach Tony O’Connor to ensure we are on the same page.

When did you leave New Zealand? We left on the 9th of July and flew to Osaka from Auckland via Singapore. We are now on a training camp in Biwa.

What’s focus during Biwa? The purpose of our final camp is to continue fine tuning and gaining speed. It is a good opportunity to adapt to the heat in Tokyo. I’m enjoying these final days at camp, we’ve done some great speed work. It is an exciting time and great to be working in a team where everyone is ready and excited to race.

When will you arrive in the Olympic village? July 18th. It gives us a week in the village before our first race.

Did you pack anything unusual? Nothing out of the ordinary but lots of face masks and hand sanitiser. When travelling to Lucerne for the FOQR I did pack a putter and golf balls to keep my eye in for my next game of golf.

Photo NZL M8+
Credit Benedict Tufnell

Have you visited the Olympic venue before? No. I’ve never been to Japan and I am grateful and excited to be in the privileged position to travel. I would love to return when we are allowed to travel the country freely. Some of my team members and the Rowing New Zealand support staff have visited the Olympic venue so I’ve been given plenty of information and I feel comfortable about what to expect. In terms of the water conditions, I don’t think salt water will have any negative impact. We’ve been preparing for all water and wind conditions and I believe we are skilful enough to handle any of them.

How are you feeling? Confident. We’ve had a good build into Tokyo and competing at the FOQR was a great learning experience. We have cemented some key things as a crew and are working well to get the best boat speed. The lads are very responsive and provide great feedback so I can give them the best direction possible.

What’s the target for Tokyo? A gold medal. You have to aim high. I know it will be a close race but I have complete confidence in our crew.

What’s motivation? I love helping others and working within a team. All the hard work, time and commitment we put into training and racing is rewarding and I am proud to be able to represent my country doing something I love.

Who are the big players in your event? I see every country as a big player; never disrespect your opposition. It is hard to gauge the field as we haven’t raced each other internationally since 2019.

Photo Sam Bosworth coxing the New Zealand men’s eight during the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta in 2019
Credit Benedict Tufnell

How will you feel arriving in Tokyo? I suspect it will be very different from other years. There are a lot of Covid-19 protocols to ensure we stay safe. It is important to roll with the punches and stay focused on the big picture, which is to execute our plan and row well while enjoying the Olympic experience.

Will there be a sense of relief? It has been a long time coming given the delays over the past year. I don’t think it is relief but excitement that we can race and represent our country at the Olympics.

Which races are you looking forward to? The women’s eight. In 2017 and 2018 I coxed the New Zealand women’s eight. Our current women’s eight is world class and I look forward to seeing them achieve on the Olympic stage. To be honest, all the races are going to be exciting to watch!

What other Olympic sports will you follow? There will be plenty of downtime so I will definitely be watching the athletic events, weightlifting and kayaking. There are a lot of sports people in my hometown Cambridge, New Zealand, and I know some of the triathletes, cyclists and kayakers who are going. I’ll be following all the New Zealanders closely.

Video Hamish Bond complimenting Sam Bosworth’s coxing after winning the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta.