GB’s Rowers Road to Tokyo

The PR3 mixed coxed four of Ellen Buttrick, Giedre Rakauskaite, James Fox, Ollie Stanhope and Erin Wysocki-Jones (cox). Photo: Nick Middleton/British Rowing’s website.

19 July 2021

By Göran R Buckhorn

HTBS editor Göran R Buckhorn got to watch a preview of the rowing documentary The Road to Tokyo about the GB rowers’ journey to the Tokyo Olympics. First episode airs tomorrow on British Rowing’s website.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, 20 July, British Rowing releases the first of three 30-minute episodes of the documentary The Road to Tokyo. Adam Heybeard, of Truly Sweet Visuals, who wrote, filmed and edited the film, started following the British rowers from the Olympic and Paralympic qualifying regatta at the 2019 World Rowing Championships in Linz, Austria.

What we see are the highs and lows of training, selection and racing. As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, which postponed the 2020 Olympic Games to later this month, was a difficult challenge for the whole GB team. The pandemic caused havoc with the preparations for coaches and rowers alike.

In the first episode, which I was able to watch the other day, interviewed rowers are talking about their Olympic dream but also about the fear of failing to get a spot in an Olympic boat. No one is “safe”, not even “old” successful Olympians or Paralympians. Everyone is starting with a clean slate.

We also hear the voices of coaches and some rowers’ mothers, the latter keeping a brave face when their children are not coming home to celebrate their own birthday, the parents’ wedding day or grandmother’s 80th birthday – rowing comes first for these aspiring Olympians.

In the first episode, the rowers’ weightlifting, erging and seat-racing are done under the watchful eyes of Jurgen Grobler, who said that the 2020 Olympic Games would be his last as the GB head coach. However, after the Tokyo Games were postponed a year, Grobler jumped ship – and who can blame him? He had been involved in rowers’ Olympic quest since the 1972 Games.

Adam Heybeard has done a fantastic job with The Road to Tokyo. He has captured the happiness of the rowers after a good outing and the agony of those who are displeased with their performance on the water or the erg. It cannot have been easy sitting at the cutting board getting not 12 months but 23 months of work down to three 30-minute episodes.

Here is a 1 minute trailer for the documentary:

The Road to Tokyo will be exclusively available tomorrow, Tuesday, 20 July, on British Rowing’s website,

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