Tom George breaks GB Rowing Team 2k record in lockdown

George sets new fastest-ever British time

3 minute read
Published 19.06.20

Tom George has broken the GB Rowing Team men’s 2km indoor rowing record while training at home, setting a new fastest-ever British time of 05:39.6 and becoming the first ever British rower – and eighth man ever – to break the 5:40 barrier. Tom’s incredible time beats the current GB Rowing men’s team record of 5:40 held by teammate Moe Sbihi, who himself broke Sir Matthew Pinsent’s 11-year record in 2015. 

Photo Tom George training at GB Rowing HQ in Caversham before lockdown.
Credit Benedict Tufnell

Tom, who is staying with his parents in Gloucestershire, said: “I texted Moe in the morning to say I was going to go for it; we always text before pieces. I told him afterwards that I did it and he said ‘honestly, fair play, I know how hard it is, congrats and enjoy it’. To get that from someone like him who’s won the Olympics was really humbling. 

“I did have a moment afterwards where I thought about how everything I’ve done so far in my rowing career has been with the goal of winning the Olympics; to achieve something like this makes me actually feel like I’m on the pathway to doing that. 

“I went out full pace in the first half and thought I’d see what happened in the second half. At halfway I thought right, I have to either fully commit or I won’t do it. The third 500 is where it really sucks but you just have to close your eyes and do it. The projected time was saying 5:40 but I knew I had something left. During the last ten strokes it ticked on to 5:39 as the projected finish; weirdly the last ten strokes were enjoyable as I felt that sense of accomplishment and knew I could do it.” 

Olympic Chief Coach Jürgen Grobler said: “I am so pleased for Tom. He is a strong puller and this is really impressive in the current situation. Big respect to Moe as well whose time was also fantastic.” 

Jürgen also paid tribute to the wider GB Rowing Team men’s and women’s squads, who have been posting strong performances despite training from home. 

Photo Tom George (right) competing in the GBR M8+ at the 2019 World Rowing Cup III in Rotterdam.
Credit Benedict Tufnell

“It is hard training at home and there is a real variety in the location and training set-up,” Jürgen said. “It can be slower to recover from injuries without our physio support and they do not have strength and conditioning coaches so it is harder for them to get technical advice. 

“However, there have been lots of PBs (personal bests) in the squad, which shows they’re very competitive. Everybody is on the case. They are still a young team.” 

Tom agreed, saying: “Everyone’s pushed on massively. We’re still on WhatsApp groups together and we’re still meeting as a full squad over Zoom – we’ve created an environment to push each other along regardless of when or where we’re training. There really is a responsibility to go out and train well and train hard.” 

The Team have been utilising cross-training methods while training from home, with road cycling and running both playing a larger role than usual. 

Photo Tom’s time beats the current GB Rowing men’s team record of 5:40 held by teammate Moe Sbihi
Credit Benedict Tufnell

Team physiologist Sarah Moseley said: “There have been lots of really strong performances from the squad over the past ten weeks, with a large number of PBs on both the 30-minute and 2km ergo tests. The ergometer has been the foundation of the squad programme however this period has seen a much higher proportion of cross training compared to normal, with static and road cycling making up more than 30% of training time and running making up 5%.” 

For Jürgen, who has coached medal-winning crews at every Olympic Games since 1972, lockdown has presented an entirely new coaching challenge. 

“I have learned we have the right athletes,” he says. “Their passion is great – we are not a sport driven by money and they still have the motivation. They have dealt well with the delay to the Games. 

“I am sure the IOC will do everything they can to give this generation of athletes the opportunity to showcase their performances.”