For Tom Mackintosh, racing at the Olympics has been his greatest dream. At Tokyo 2020 he joins double Olympic Champion Hamish Bond in the Kiwi men’s eight as they seek to cause an upset and deliver a podium performance. At 15-years-old Tom started rowing at Hawke’s Bay Rowing Club in New Zealand and within two years he had won a bronze at the 2014 Junior World Championships. Four years later he won bronze at the U23 World Championships in Poznan, Poland, and the following year improved to an U23 silver medal. Mackintosh shares his thoughts on Tokyo 2020.
How’s your season going? We won the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta [FOQR] and that was an amazing experience. It was my first international eights race, and I absolutely loved it. The start line was hectic, loud, and angry, and there was a lot of testosterone! I thought my nerves would be unsettling, but I had faith in the crew and faith that we could get the job done. That was our only international competition this year but we raced against other New Zealand crews during our Winter Series. We’re all super competitive and the racing provides a good benchmark for progression.
Tell us about the crew dynamic in the Kiwi men’s eight? There’s a fair amount of chat that gets thrown around in our boat and that’s great. Who has the best chat is a flavour of the month kind of thing; sometimes you’re on, sometimes you’re off! We’ve got good ergs in the boat with Bondy [Hamish Bond], Matt [Macdonald] and Shaun [Kirkham] on 5:45. I’m the lightest in the crew so perhaps, by default, I get the honour of ‘silkiest rower’? In terms of leadership the way I see it; everyone is a leader in their own right. Most decisions are crew decisions, and everyone needs to input. Each crew member brings their own value so it is important we get the most out of everyone.
When do you fly to Japan? I am currently in transit! The team are in the plaza lounge in Singapore airport en-route to Japan! We left Auckland about 12 hours ago!
How will you feel when you get to Tokyo? Hot and sweaty! It is 38 °C and close to 100% humidity. It’ll be great to finally touch down. And racing in the Olympics has been a dream of mine for so long and I’m excited that it’s finally happening.
Will you go straight to the athlete village? We have a training camp in Biwa before we move into the Olympic Village
When is your first row on the course? About four days before our heat. I leave the details to our cox Sam [Bosworth], he’s in charge!
When do you leave Tokyo? Covid restrictions require us to leave 48 hours after our last event. We have a charter flight direct to New Zealand. We need to undergo a strict quarantine when we return. I’m currently completing a Master’s in Management so that will take up the bulk of my time in isolation. We had to do a similar thing after the FOQR, but it wasn’t too bad – we had ergs in our rooms, and I treated it like an erg-camp. We made great physiological gains and all the erging helped pass the time.
How do you feel? I’m feeling great. I have complete faith in my crew, and I am looking forward to racing.
What are you hoping for? I feel like this question begs for the answer: a gold medal. The medals are nice but I’m very proud of the work we’ve put in over the years and bringing this eight together has been a real experience for me. I feel privileged to be racing with, and against, exceptional athletes.
Where does your drive come from? It all started with my Dad. He was a New Zealand Rep and I loved hearing his rowing stories. As I’ve progressed through my career my main motivations are bettering myself as an athlete and bringing the team together.
Who are the big players in your event? I’ve been asked this question so many times and I can’t really give a straight answer. Great Britain and Germany have raced well at the World Cups, but Australia and USA have not shown their colours yet. The Dutch were fast in 2019 and Romania raced very well at the Europeans. Everyone will be fast, and it’ll be a bloody tough race!
What sessions are you doing now? We’ve done a mammoth amount of aerobic work over the last few years so now we’re getting into the shorter, sharper race work sessions.
Which races are you most looking forward to? I’m super excited to see our women sweep group race. They won the pair and eight in 2019 so I’m really excited to watch them perform in Tokyo! The men’s four as well; although our young New Zealand four was a bit off the pace in 2019 it’s still a cool event so I’m keen to see how everyone shapes up.
What non-rowing Olympic sports will you follow? I’ll be watching every New Zealander compete! I’m so proud of our country and seeing the Silver Fern on the world stage always gives me goosebumps.
Have you done any specific heat-training? We sure have! Rowing New Zealand set up a heat chamber back home in Karapiro. We did a lot of 60 to 90 minute aerobic sessions with the temperature and humidity cranked right up. It is up there as some of the hardest sessions I’ve ever done. It’s hot, sweaty, and the heart rate goes through the roof!