Olympics

Army Rower Targeting Tokyo Olympics Spot

Lance Corporal Stephen Cox was set to retire in 2020, but is now pushing on for one more Olympics opportunity.

A British Army rower is targeting a place at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which have been rescheduled for this summer.

Lance Corporal Stephen Cox was ready to quit the sport last year but the postponement of the competition due to the coronavirus pandemic gave him a fresh chance.

His mission to compete at the Games begins with World Cup qualification in Croatia this month.

LCpl Cox is aiming to feature for Zimbabwe and explained how he felt when the Olympics were postponed.

"It's been challenging recently with the whole COVID thing," he said.

"The initial lockdown was put in place a week before my final Olympic qualification.

"Off the back of that, we actually didn't know if the Olympics were happening.

"It was four years of really hard graft [and] hard training and then all possibly for nothing," he added.

The Army athlete was looking at quitting the sport but chose to carry on for one more opportunity.

He explained why, saying: "Just remembering the dream – the childhood dream and realising how lucky I actually am to be in the position I am to do what I love and get paid by the Army."

Lance Corporal Stephen Cox hopes to represent Zimbabwe at the Olympics if he performs well at the World Cup this month.

Lockdown meant the 3 Regiment RLC soldier had to come up with innovative ways to continue his training.

He said: "I literally improvised by throwing tractor tyres, filling bags of sand, the Army bergens were actually really good – I filled them with gravel. Even as much as squatting with my fiancee on my shoulders."

He saw results from his improvised training plan.

"I kind of took it week-to-week. It was paying off because I was seeing personal bests on the rowing machine every month.

"I was doing regular testing and seeing the seconds come down," he said.

"I was just like 'wow, this is working. Let me keep at it'. Yeah, I haven't looked back since."

LCpl Cox is vying with two others for the seat in the men's single scull.

It is potentially the toughest event within any rowing regatta, according to the Army lance corporal.

He said: "It's a very gladiatorial boat.

"We generally race a lot more than the other boats. It's a much longer race so it's about a minute longer than almost every other boat.

"The winner of the single scull at the Olympics is usually seen as the hardest boy at the event so that gives you some idea of what it's about," he added.