‘It’s great to get something back after the hard work we’ve put in this year after injury’

Graeme Thomas and Angus Groom spent eight months on the sidelines this season due to injury, but returned to win their double sculls heat at the World Championships

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Graeme Thomas and Angus Groom at the 2017 World Championships in Sarasota-Bradenton (Naomi Baker)

For many rowers, selection for the season climax of the World Championships is reward for a year of proving their worth on the water, but for Graeme Thomas and Angus Groom it’s been their off-water efforts that has carried them to Sarasota-Bradenton.

The men’s double scull, who first raced on the world stage this year in Monday’s heat, have been on the road to recovery for nine months, after injury ruled them both out for the vast majority of 2017.

They won their heat at the Nathan Benderson Park, overhauling the Italian boat in the final 500m, a remarkable feat for two rowers who didn’t pick up an oar in anger until May.

And although the long slog and monotony of rehab has been hard at times, both Thomas and Groom are now grateful just to be on the start line in Florida.

“On reflection it felt great to be back in the boat and competing again,” said Thomas. “I remember being on the start line and sometimes you get the heavy legs and a little bit of fear creeps in but that was one of the most positive start line experiences I’ve had.

“There were nerves, which is good, but there was also a great feeling of ‘I want to do this, I want to get a result’. As far as races go it was fairly enjoyable and great to get something back after the hard work we’ve put in this year.”

>>> All you need to know about the 2017 World Rowing Championships in Sarasota-Bradenton

And that hard work has included spells on crutches, in swimming pools, fitness bikes and physio rooms. Seemingly, for these two racing fanatics, anywhere but a rowing boat.

“The sheer length of time we were out was the most difficult thing for me,” said Groom. “We were both on a full rehab programme for around eight months from start to finish.

“I really missed being out on the water. I missed the feeling of being fit and was getting left behind during the winter. You also miss being part of the squad as doing a separate programme can be quite isolating from the guys doing the full training programme.”

The duo, who ended the heats with the second fastest time, are focused on making the A final – a result they both regard as a huge success.

And for self-titled control freak Thomas, eight months of not being able to dictate when they’ve been able to race meant a summer of playing catch up to get ready for Sarasota, but you wouldn’t bet against this pair delivering again in the semi-final.

>>> Barras looking to fuel Tokyo dreams with strong showing in Sarasota-Bradenton

“We’ve worked really hard in training to make sure we get the most out of ourselves,” said the 28-year-old, who came through British Rowing’s World Class Start talent ID programme.

“I was back on the water by the middle of May and couldn’t believe how quickly I took to it. I asking my coach if he was lying about the splits he was giving me as they were much quicker than I ever expected they would be so early on.

“We’re not intimidated by anyone in this field here but we do show them all a lot of respect. There are eight or nine boats capable of making the final but there are only six spots.

“We’re very lucky in the British squad that we have such a strong group who have been getting results this year so we knew if could get close their numbers we’d be at the sharp end of our field.”

The World Rowing Championships run from Sunday, 24 September to Sunday, 1 October in Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida. Keep up to date with all the action on the British Rowing website, as well as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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