WHEN Robbie Renwick declares “I don’t do 6am every morning now” there is notable glee in his voice. After a decade of rising at dawn in the quest for self-betterment through interminable lengths of a swimming pool, the Aberdonian’s recent switch to train in Stirling has allowed him to work the same kind of hours as us non-athletic mortals, a veritable treat.
At the age of 26, the repetition required to remain among the best freestyle competitors in the world has gotten old, he confirms. Which is among the primary reasons why the former Commonwealth champion appears intent on calling time on his aquatic career once the Rio Olympics are complete next summer, in favour of normality and the freedom to cut loose at the hour of his choosing.
Before taking his leave, Renwick still intends to make a splash, with his quest for another domestic crown starting off today at the British Championships in London over 100 metres. Ripped and prepped to the max, he will expect to walk away with medals from this and Saturday’s 200m, just as he has regularly managed since his emergence at the 2006 Commonwealths in Manchester.
Yet while his ambitions have remained constant, the levels of motivation are subject to ebbs and flows. “When I was really young, it’s really different to now,” he proclaims. “I know what it’s all about. I know what competing’s like. It still excites me, those huge events. But the daily grind is getting more and more difficult I must admit. I only get truly excited when there is a major medal on the line.”
With this week’s meeting doubling as the trials for the summer’s global championships in Moscow, Stratford is a necessary staging post. However, Renwick – if selected – will not travel to Russia in pursuit of individual acclaim. The objective now, and for the 16 months which potentially remain of this mission possible, will be to capture an elusive major title amid Great Britain’s 4x200m relay squad.
It is a choice based on realism. In Beijing and London, his Olympic ambitions were thwarted. At the last worlds, in Barcelona in 2013, he was sixth in the final but still off the pace. “Just from my results over the last three years, I can look at the top guys and see they’re just a little too far ahead. If I put everything into it, I know I can get to finals. That’s not good enough any more.”
Hence, in what passes for the veteran stage of a competitive swimmer, it is four-way or no-way. “I’m still competing to be the best in Britain,” Renwick confirms, lest his rivals assume he is no longer a threat. “It’s just when it comes to individual, I’d rather not focus on it and put all my energy into the relay team and producing the kind of quick split that will set the team up.
“It takes a lot out of you to battle through heats and semi-finals and then a really tough final. You use up most of your tank before you get to the relays. So I’d rather throw everything into that and give myself the best possible chance of landing some hardware this year and next summer.”
The route beyond Brazil has been mapped. An accomplished kite-surfer, some of his earnings have been invested into an instructional school based in Troon. Free weekends are spent on site, personally relaying his knowledge. Free time through the week is diverted to the travails of any entrepreneur. “It’s an opportunity to run my own business and I thought it would be a great way to keep myself busy when I’m not training. It’s like a hobby at the moment but I’m hoping it will get bigger and bigger.”
His other job remains an oeuvre incomplete. One final opportunity knocks to depart satisfactorily, to join the select band who have gone to three Olympics. “And obviously more so, if I can get a medal as well,” Renwick adds.
“It would round things off. Swimming has taken up so much of my life, I’m actually looking forward to not getting up early and having such a strict routine. I’m looking forward to putting my energy into other things.”