Robbie Renwick has more than one Rio ambition. Most importantly, the Scottish swimmer is targeting a gold medal but then he hopes to celebrate with some down time at the world famous Copacabana Beach.
“That’s the plan. I am very passionate about kitesurfing,” explained the former 200m freestyle Commonwealth champion who is heading to his third Olympics. “I have my own kite surfing business that I run on the weekends and I find that takes me away from swimming and keeps me thinking about other things and that is refreshing. It helps clear my mind before I get back into swimming at the start of the week.”
Based at Barassie Beach, Troon, his TRYkiteSurfing business helps alleviate the pressure he places on himself. At 27, he is one of the old guard in a sport where teenage prospects quickly become podium contenders, and he says that means that medals are all that matter.
“My main focus will be the 4x200m relay to hopefully deliver a medal in that. It’s my best chance and we were world champions in that last summer so to come away with an Olympic medal is what it is all about. I’m at the business end of my career so it is all about medals for me now. In London it was brilliant that I made the final and came sixth but at the end of the day no-one really cares unless you have a medal. It is very harsh but medals are what matter.”
But, having burst on to the elite stage a decade ago, when he swam the anchor leg for Scotland in the 2006 Commonwealth Games relay and won silver, Renwick says his training these days is more about fine tuning than lung-bursting sessions and, as well as bolstering his mindset, his kitesurfing helps boost activity, without detracting from his swimming.
“Throughout my career I have developed such a huge engine so I don’t need to do the really hard training to build up that engine size anymore because it has kind of reached its maximum. So, for me, it is a case of maintaining. That means doing more recovery and focusing more on technical aspects, like starts, turns, underwater phase, just making sure my stroke is as efficient as possible and doing other things away from swimming is a good one.
“Kitesurfing is a great hobby and an escape and because we are usually only teaching, it is very, very safe. We have had no injuries. That side of it I am fully aware of and when it comes to the lead-up to competition, I will probably stay out the water a bit but, for now, it is just a great release for me.”
A business and a hobby, it is not the fulcrum of a long-term career plan. But, speaking at St Ninian’s Primary School in Stirling, this week, where he helped launch the Team Scotland Scottish Sports Awards – which will be presented at a special dinner in September and are viewed as a way of keeping the Scottish public engaged and supportive of sport – he said he has no thoughts of retiring as a full-time swimmer yet anyway.
“It is a weekend deal for me. There’s not enough money in it to do it full-time. It’s something I enjoy doing and it gives me lessons in how to run a small business, which is great experience. But swimming, for me is a full-time job.”
And it is a job he takes seriously. While other nations were looking to shave fractions of seconds off their times in the quest for European medals last week, the GB representatives viewed the meet as part of the Rio training programme. Some still earned victories but it was all about the bigger picture, explained the University of Stirling swimmer. “For us, the goal is to swim well in August. There were so many countries, and so many people that were celebrating last week with big smiles on their faces. But I guarantee these sorts of people won’t be celebrating this summer.
“I’ve been an international athlete for ten years, and I always go through ups and downs. It’s really how you bounce back from all these but if you’re going into every race thinking you’re going to win it, or smash a good time, you’re very wrong. You’ve got to manage your expectation come every competition.
“For me, last week, it was kind of the case that I knew I wasn’t quite there. But it was race practice for what we’re going to do this summer, so I made sure I focused on my start, my turns and the underwater phase of my swimming. Come a little bit more training and rest, and once I shave my body hair and recover properly, I know the swimming part will be there.”
Shaving the hair can equate to several metres over 200m. More symbolically, it signals it’s game time. “In a sport where hundredths of a second matter, it’s the difference between gold and silver, the difference between eighth and not making a final. And for me it’s like a trigger and I feel like I’m ready to race, and I’m tapered.”
It’s a serious business but hopefully, once the job is done, there will be time for fun as well and that trip to the Copacabana.