Annabelle McIntyre: Bound For Tokyo!

Credit: Sarah Reed, Rowing Australia

In just over three weeks Annabelle McIntyre (Class of 2013) will be representing Australia as part of the national rowing team. Annabelle will compete in the Women’s Pair and Women’s Four. Both boats are seen as genuine gold medal contenders.

Our community wishes Annabelle safe travels and the very best of luck in her events!

How did you come to be involved in rowing?

I first started rowing in Year 12 after I stopped competitive swimming. We had family friends that had become involved in rowing at Fremantle Rowing Club through a learn-to-row program run at CBC Fremantle. That, in turn, led to my mother and sister joining the club. I felt like I needed to do something to keep me fit and engaged as swimming had been my life for a good eight years or so, and I had seen how much my family had enjoyed their time down at the club and decided to give it a go. I had fully intended to use rowing to stay fit and be more of a social activity but I learned to love the sport very quickly and never really looked back.

Where are you based and who coaches you?

I am currently based in Penrith, New South Wales and coached by John Keogh, Ellen Randell and Tom Westgarth at the Women’s High Performance National Training Centre for Rowing. At the beginning of this Olympic cycle (2016 to 2020) Rowing Australia introduced two High Performance Centre’s for men and women located in Canberra and Penrith respectively, centralising their senior athletes in hopes of increasing medal chances at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. This allows athletes to train together full-time in an environment that would hopefully produce the best results possible.

What has been your greatest achievement in competitive rowing?

So far my biggest achievement would have to be getting selected to row in two boat classes, the women’s coxless pair (W2-) and women’s coxed eight (W8+), for the 2019 Senior Australian Rowing Team and the international season that followed.

Rowers usually only compete in one boat class, so to be selected in two was quite an honour. That year both the women’s pair and women’s eight won a gold and silver medal in the World Cup Series in Europe and both were the overall winners of their individual boat classes at the end of the series. Later that year I won a silver medal in both events at the World Rowing Championships in Linz, Austria, qualifying the pair and the eight for the Tokyo Olympic games at the same time.

Jessica Morrison and Annabelle McIntyre (right) Linz 2018

What have been your challenges in preparing for the Tokyo Olympics?

Obviously, the biggest challenge and most recent one has been the pandemic and working out how to maximise training around the different restrictions that have been in place throughout the past year in both WA during the initial lockdown and NSW once the training centre opened back up.

Apart from the physical challenges of navigating social-distancing in a team sport, there were many mental challenges as well that usually centred around anxieties of whether the Olympics would eventually go ahead or be officially cancelled. We all inevitably asked, “What was the point of all this training and sacrifice if I don’t get to achieve or attempt to achieve my end goal?” This for most would probably have been the hardest part to overcome.

In the lead-up to the Olympics, we would normally compete in the World Rowing Cup Series that had three regattas around Europe in the first half of the year, allowing us to practise racing at an international level before the major event. Again due to Covid-19 international travel was not an option so Rowing Australia held small replication regattas at different courses around Australia to practise the process of travelling to a regatta and racing in semi-unknown environments. Here we raced within the senior team and in some cases the underage teams as well, to practise racing within a regatta environment.

What are you most looking forward to at the Olympics?

Definitely racing. I can’t wait to sit on the start line and put together the perfect race. Both myself and my teammates have put in so much time and effort to get to this point. 

It could have been much simpler and definitely less stressful for many people to call time on their rowing (or sporting) careers at the start of the pandemic, so to be able to watch and compete against these athletes who have kept training right through, without knowing if all their hard work would come to fruition, is a privilege.

Credit: Sarah Reed, Rowing Australia

What opportunities has rowing given you?

There are obvious opportunities like travelling and racing around the world, and seeing some countries many would never think to travel to. I have also had the pleasure of working and training in an environment with people who look for a high level of excellence within themselves in many aspects of their lives, who come back day after day to push themselves to the brink of exhaustion all so that they can get down a 2000m course in the fastest time. The support staff: the coaches, physiotherapists, physiologists, dieticians, and all other members of Rowing Australia who give their all to see the success of the whole team is an amazing thing to be a part of.

We have had the pleasure of being part of many different high-performance environment workshops, meeting many different people from different high-performance environments. This included the Commando Unit of the ADF based in NSW, who recognised the need for research into stress and its effects on the mind and body and worked in collaboration with the AIS to study its effects in soldiers and athletes.

Outside of rowing, what does your life look like?

I was studying engineering part-time at Curtin University but that has been on hold for the past two years as it was getting unmanageable to maintain the required hours and the increasing training load. Post-Olympics I’m hoping to go back to studying for a while. Apart from that, it’s various hobbies that keep me engaged from full-time training. When we don’t have training or more of a choose-your-own exercise type of session I enjoy trail running and exploring the Blue Mountains.

Annabelle exploring in the Blue Mountains National Park

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