Team GB with hotel director, Gian Luigi Epis, in Alcudia.

28-02-2017Humphrey Carter

For the past two weeks, the Vanity Golf Hotel in Puerto Alcudia, has been the winter training camp base for members of Team GB’s rowers, including a number of Olympic medalists.

Amongst the group are Karen Bennett, from Scotland, who won the silver medal in the coxless four at the 2015 World Rowing Championships and a silver medal in the women’s eight at the 2016 Olympics, and Welsh rower Vicky Thornely, who partnered Katherine Grainger in the women’s double sculls to silver at the 2016 Olympics. Thanks to Great Britain’s head coach for women and lightweights, Australian Paul Thompson, Team GB has been the most decorated rowing team at the past three Olympic Games and, as far as he is concerned, that is not going to change at the forthcoming games in Tokyo.

A former rower himself, he has coached winning teams at the past seven Olympic Games - three for Australia and four for Team GB. Thompson said this week that not only is the Team GB set up no stranger to Majorca, it is also the perfect location to start the new season.

Coming off the Games in Rio last summer, the main objective from now is Tokyo.

"The road to the Tokyo Games has started right here in Majorca," he said at the Vanity Golf Hotel, which they have used for the past five years, although Team GB rowers have been using the north east of the island for their winter training camps for some seven years.

The team leaves Majorca at the end of this week after an intensive two-week training camp. "We don’t go out on the water here, the sea’s too rough and the lakes too small, but that’s not the objective of the winter camp. The team have an eleven-month season, so when we first get together the first thing for my team is to start rebuilding their strength, aerobic capacity, stamina, resistance and fitness levels. We have a special indoor rowing gym, we then get them out cycling, we’ve been up to Formentor and Sa Calobra and we’ve also been in the pool.

"Plus there is plenty of gym work which needs to be carried out and we’ve found that the Vanity Golf is the perfect location for us. The hotel director, Gian Luigi, is excellent. He gets us whatever we need and makes sure we are extremely well looked after."

So there is no secret to why this winter, with Gian Luigi have been looking after Team GB rowers and cyclists and Team Sky, it is rapidly become the winter base for global elite sportsmen and women.

"Yes, we’ve got other teams training elsewhere. Some of the men, the heavyweights, are on the water in Portugal, but the design of the boats depends on the category being raced in, so their boats are more suitable to get out on the water.

"Here, like I said, it’s about getting the team in top physical and mental shape and, to be honest, many leave here with the confidence that, having got through the Majorca training camp, the rest of the season is a ‘stroll in the park'.

"We’ve got access to excellent facilities here and none of that would be possible without the funding of UK lottery money. The funding has become the real backbone to the rowers and many other British teams and we’ve all seen the wonderful results over the years and how well Team GB is improving in general, Olympics after Olympics. Because of the weather, these kind of training camps are just not possible in the UK. We’ve been to train in Australia and Cyprus, for example, but in the end we’ve found being up here in Majorca is the best place and in the short to mid.term, we are going to continue using Vanity Golf thanks to lottery money.

"In fact, we’ll be back in November. First we’ve got the European Championships in the Czech Republic, but our main target for this year, this season, is the World Championships in Florida in October and after that, we return here. It’s a tough season. The seasons get tougher for most elite athletes today. The rowers get a month off each year, similar to the cyclists and tennis players but, of course, during that month, they all do their best to keep in shape, keep ticking over. We don’t want any injuries early in the season. Well, we don’t want any at all and that is why, although indoor rowing is a safe sport, it’s the back and general over usage of certain parts of the body which we have to watch. But the key is to be tall and strong.

"A few rowers have left, some new youngsters have come in as the sport continues to gain popularity in the UK, which is great for us. As a team our confidence is high for the coming year and the road to Tokyo."

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