Stella BIDA, in conversation with Matt LANGRIDGE, Olympic Champion, World Champion, European Champion
Summarised conversation transcript
This is a summary version of the conversation. More details, stories, and amazing insights are mentioned in the video!
Matt LANGRIDGE is one of UK’s most successful athletes, having competed in 4 Olympic Games, winning 3 Olympic medals and multiple World Championship titles. After a 16-year career with the British Rowing Team, Matt finally achieved his lifetime goal of becoming Olympic Champion at the Rio Olympics of 2016.
Stella Bida: Hi everyone and welcome to this new Conversation of Excellence! Today I'm so excited because I have a very special guest, Matt Langridge. Matt is one of UK's most successful athlete. He has competed four times at the Olympic games, winning three medals. He has also won multiple World Championship titles. After a career of 16 years with the British Rowing Team, he finally accomplished his goal of being an Olympic Champion. There are so many things to say about Matt! Matt welcome! I'm happy to see you again.
Matt Langridge: Hi welcome, thank you for having me on!
Stella Bida: What have I missed to share about you as an introduction?
Matt Langridge: The introduction was pretty good. As you said, the highlights were obviously the olympic gold medal, the World Championships and the success in the European Championships as well. For the rowing side, I think that you have covered everything! What I've gone on to do afterwards is for me a new exciting chapter - but I'm sure we'll talk about that as we as we go on.
Stella Bida: The first time we met, you shared with me about that new chapter, related to your passion about aviation. Where are you at regarding that part of your journey?
Matt Langridge: Since we last spoke, I've now qualified! So I've now fully qualified as a Commercial Pilot!
Stella Bida: Wow, congratulations!
Matt Langridge: Thank you! Obviously, as I'm sure you're aware it's not the best time for aviation, but it's something that I've always wanted to do when I was younger! I prioritized rowing first, as I could be an athlete only with the constraint of the age limit. But when I was looking at what else to do next, aviation had always been in the background.
Stella Bida: When you decided to end your career as an olympic athlete and to go towards your other passion for aviation, were you ever in a state of fear of the uncertainty?
Matt Langridge: Definitely. Aviation was a passion, but it wasn't something that I knew I was going to be any good at. That was the difference with rowing. By the time I started to make a career in rowing, I already knew I was good at it. I knew that I had a talent before knew I had the potential. I had done the Junior Team, I had been successful as a junior, I had won the Junior World Championships. At that point, I got invited to join the Senior Team. So by the time I had gone into being a full-time athlete, I already knew I had the talent and the ability to make a career out of it. It was not guaranteed, but at least I was reassured that I had the foundation.
But with aviation, it was something completely unknown. I came to the conclusion that if it's something I really wanted to do, I just had to go for it. When I started the course, I was very pleasantly surprised, because I think that a lot of the discipline I had learned through sports in terms of applying myself, being rigorous, really actually helped me. I was used to that routine of sports. So I actually found it probably much easier! There were a lot of things I've learned as an athlete that I could apply to this new career.
Stella Bida: The London Olympic games in 2012 were a turning point for you. I remember that you shared with me that you started enjoying your journey much more as an Olympian at that moment. How has that been a great part of Rio's success in 2016 for you?
Matt Langridge: One of the things we do as athletes is that we are always pushing to be better. My motivation was to win the gold medal, but actually my real motivation was to be the best I could possibly be. That was my ultimate goal!
The time after London was probably in some ways, my most difficult time to overcome. The build up to London 2012 were really four years of success. I had been the World Champion twice in that period. So I really went into London 2012 with high hopes that we could go and win the gold medal. Unfortunately, that season didn't go the way we wanted it. It probably took me a good year to get over.
I had to re-evaluate my attitude. What I realized is that in the build up from Beijing 2008 to London 2012, I had been so focused on that gold medal. It is only after reflection that I realized that I had a really successful four years! The end result hadn't quite been what I wanted it to be, but actually, in terms of me growing as an athlete, me improving, me having success - there was a lot I could take out of it!
What I said to myself was that if I was to move forward, what I needed to do is to make sure that I enjoy the journey a lot more. I need to enjoy those little victories along the way. I need to enjoy being with my teammates! The more you can enjoy what you are doing, the better you can perform.
Stella Bida: What is the most tiniest thing that you started to enjoy in your olympic journey from that moment?
Matt Langridge: I think for me a lot of it was enjoying being around the people that I was with, enjoying the camaraderie within the team. The fact that you're with very like-minded people on a daily basis is something really positive. You all have the same goal. I think it's a really enjoyable experience. I wouldn't say that I didn't enjoy it before, I think that I just didn't appreciate it.
In the period from Beijing 2008 to London 2012, although I did enjoy it, there was always this underlying pressure on me. I almost stopped myself from fully enjoying it and relaxing in the moment, because I was always thinking about the goal in London. I didn't fully celebrate, because I didn't fully appreciate it.
I decided then that I was going to enjoy the moment. I'm just going to enjoy whatever I'm doing 'NOW' and enjoy those victories!
Being with only olympic medalists and champions, we tend to forget our achievements. We forget about being a World Champion, winning international races – We almost don’t celebrate them as much as it deserves. This is why I’ve decided that I'm just going to enjoy the moment. I'm going to enjoy being around like-minded people. I'm going to enjoy whatever races, whatever achievements, celebrate them with the amount they deserve.
Stella Bida: Can you share with us what has been the impact of being in the same environment with Matt Pinsent in your journey? I remember when we met, you mentionned his name, and it touched me...
Matt Langridge: In 1996 at the Atlanta games, we weren't as successful with olympic sports. So we were having a particularly bad games. At a certain point, all the talk on the TV were about our best chance for a gold medal with these two rowers: Steven Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent. That got my interest, and I watched the race. They were talking about the fact that tall people make good rowers, and I was quite tall as a kid. That got me interested in it. I would say that I'm a product of the Olympics! I got inspired by watching the Olympics!
Having seen Matthew and Steve winning a gold medal definitely inspired me to take it up as a sport.
Referred to in this question:
When I was joining the Junior Team, I remember that I used to get really nervous. I used to get those nerves that everybody gets. One day, the Chief Coach asked Matthew Pinsent as the senior member of the team to give a talk to the rest of the younger athletes. He was going for his 4th olympic gold medal. The talk was to pass on his experience, and one of the stories he shared was about the fact that before any big race, he would basically also feel sick over the side. That was a wake-up call, when I realized that the person I've been looking up to felt like me. ..
I understood that it was okay to feel a little nervous, that there's nothing wrong about it. I realized that I actually perform best when it's the case.
Stella Bida: If you were to give a talk to your little self of 10 years old, what would you tell him?
Matt Langridge: I don't think there would be only one thing that I would tell him! The big one would be about enjoying the journey! I made a promise to myself during my athlete career that if I was to go to another game, then I would make sure that no matter what the result would be, I would park that result, enjoy the rest of the games, and deal with the 'disappointment' later on.
Another thing I would share with my 10 year old self, in a sporting sense, would maybe be related to the way I prioritize my training. I struggled with that as a younger athlete, I was inconsistent with my training. I was training hard for two three weeks, and then I would get ill and injured.
What I realized as I got older was to prioritize the really important things, and be okay not to push myself to the limits everytime for what is not a priority. I actually found out that by doing that, I've got a lot more consistency. There's only so much you can give to everything. Unfortunately if we try and give it everything 100% all the time for everything, we do burn out.
Stella Bida: Well, thank you so much Matt for your time. Very precious sharings from you! I know that you have inspired many. So thank you for being with us today.
Matt Langridge: Thank you very much for having me. It's been lovely, I'm inspired to have this great conversation.
Matt Langridge's website: https://www.mattlangridge.co.uk/
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