Zac Purchase: 'It will be the best rowing team we have ever had'

Rower is all set for another 'pipe dream' on golden morning for Team GB

"Two hundred metres to go," instructs Zac Purchase. And then he starts commentating: "Here come Great Britain, the closing stages of the Olympic final, going for gold. You can hear the crowd now..."

On one bank of Eton Dornay lake, the immaculately sculpted venue for the 2012 rowing events, the scaffold outline of the grandstands is in place, on the other it's neatly stacked awaiting construction. Purchase starts rowing too, as if sparked into action by his own words, and our boat shoots forward, his power telling immediately.

"Can Britain catch the Kiwis?" wonders Purchase in his imaginary race and that, too, brings an immediate response. No. I've lost my stroke and our session ends tamely without an imaginary medal and Purchase pointing out the stand where his fiancée, Fliss, will be sitting on 4 August, the day when it will be very real indeed.

Purchase is 61 days from his second Olympic Games, and a further eight from racing on these waters for a second Olympic gold medal. As suggested by his on-board commentary – an endearing moment that anyone with any interest in sport has surely indulged in – it is a prospect he is relishing.

"It's hugely exciting," says Purchase, now sitting in the clubhouse eating chocolate cake. "It's nice to have it in the back of your mind and allow yourself to imagine, allow yourself to get distracted by the grandeur and the fanfares."

Purchase's quest for gold, which he will make in company with his Beijing partner Mark Hunter, will be accompanied by considerable fanfare and could provide the grandstand finish to Britain's best Games on the rowing lake for more than a century.

That final morning at Eton will first see the coxless four, long Britain's flagship, go for gold followed by Hunter and Purchase – both boats are already favourites. If eachis triumphant it will equal half Britain's most successful gold return – in London in 1908 they won four.

"It will be the best rowing team we've ever had," says Purchase and proposes Katharine Grainger, three times a silver medallist, and Anna Watkins and the men's four as a couple of other likely gold-winning crews. There should be others, too, on the evidence of the opening World Cup event in Belgrade where Britain took a dozen medals, one from every Olympic class. "We won't be winning medals in every event – more crews have got to come in," says Purchase. "But we know we have the potential to do really well."

Today at the World Cup's second round in Lucerne, Purchase and Hunter face New Zealand, their likeliest Olympic challengers, for the first time this season, but it will take some power shift for Hunter and Purchase, the world champions, not to line up in London as favourites. "Basically, we're going to be sitting on the start line thinking, 'Don't fuck it up'."

Four years ago, Hunter and Purchase won the World Championships and every World Cup race in the build-up to Beijing. By the time of the Games they were hugely fancied and on Lake Shunyi they lived up to their billing – they led all their Olympic races from start to finish.

Purchase stood on the podium and cried. "The most emotional part was seeing the flag go up," he recalls. "It was a collection of weird, wonderful and amazing emotions. The ultimate one is disbelief because you've finally achieved the dream that you set out for. There is so little actual chance of making it – it's something like a one-in-60,000 chance of being an Olympic gold medallist. It's a pipe dream."

It is a long way down from that high, especially so for rowers who endure a mental and physical intensity and rigorously demanding schedule that few sports demand. Both Hunter and Purchase suffered afterwards. "There's nothing, a complete void, and that is actually really hard to cope with. It's a bit like being in the doldrums – you have to have that medal around your neck to make it worthwhile."

Hunter thought about giving up but Purchase, nearly eight years his junior, had no doubt that he would do it all again. "All you have to do is think about the Olympics and racing again. I live to race, I absolutely live to race. I wouldn't be in a sport for as long as I have been if I wasn't winning because I derive a huge amount of impetus through the winter, the horrible hard slog, from those wins. At the end of a day you can sit down and think what I've achieved today will help me win in the summer."

British Airways, the official airline of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, is proud to support Zac Purchase

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week