Thousands of us rooted around the garden shed during lockdown and Olympic rower Tom George was no different – except he did it in record-breaking fashion.
The Cheltenham-born star has been staying with his family in Northleach and continuing racking up the metres on the ergometer, building towards the rearranged Olympic Games in 2021.
George went above and beyond and broke British Rowing’s prestigious 2km erg record, previously held by Olympic champions Matthew Pinsent and Moe Sbihi.
His back-breaking effort of 5:39.6 saw him become the first Brit and the eighth person ever to break the 5:40 barrier.
“I’ve felt in good shape during lockdown and I’ve gradually started to feel in the region of that record,” said the 25-year-old.
“Every now and again the farmer drives by and gives me a wave but other than that I’m on my own.
“It’s not the same as doing it surrounded by your team-mates but I’m massively thrilled to do it and very happy.
“This might be my little gold medal for this year. Everything I've done in rowing has been to try and win at the Olympic Games and this is another stepping stone in that process.
“After I got the record, I walked back into the house. My mum and dad asked me how it went, I said ‘fine’ and ran upstairs to have a shower. I didn’t know what to say.
“When I came downstairs I realised I’d probably have to sit them down and tell them. They just went ‘wow, that’s amazing’ and then I took the dog out.”
George has been a fixture in the eight-man boat for the past two years, helping secure a quota place so Britain can defend the tilt they won in Rio in Tokyo next year.
Before lockdown came into effect, George drove to British Rowing’s state-of-the-art facility at Caversham to collect equipment to help him train at home.
George is one of more than 1,100 athletes funded by the National Lottery on UK Sport’s World Class Programme, allowing him to train full-time and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.
Britain only won one gold medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and that came on the rowing lake through legendary duo Steve Redgrave and Matt Pinsent in the men’s pair.
And since National Lottery funding started in 1997, Great Britain and Northern Ireland athletes have won 864 Olympic and Paralympic medals.
Although they haven’t been able to train together during COVID-19, George believes the atmosphere on the World Class Programme was the key to his record-breaking feats.
“Normally when we do these tests there are 40 guys in a room at Caversham screaming at you,” George said.
“During lockdown we’ve had to dig deeper rather than relying on energy around you and drag the performances out of ourselves.
“Getting myself into this shape is driven by the other guys around me. We talk on Zoom quite a lot and have WhatsApp groups where we share our performances.
“There are days when you don't feel great and someone will submit their score on WhatsApp and it holds yourself accountable for letting others down.
“We've created an environment where we push each other on, even though we're not physically there together at Caversham. It’s awesome.”
No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise around £30 million each week for good causes. Discover the positive impact playing the National Lottery has at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/stories/track-to-tokyo and #TNLAthletes #TracktoTokyo