Moe Sbihi was part of the ‘awesome foursome’, Team GB’s men’s four, which won a fifth successive Olympic title in Rio

A graduate of the GB Rowing Team Start programme, 6’6” Moe Sbihi has won three successive World Championship titles, plus two European crowns, as well as a bronze medal with the men’s eight at the London 2012 Olympic Games. He was unbeaten in the 2016 season.

[1] How did you first get into rowing?

I was picked up by a talent ID scheme that got me into rowing. I was active and doing many sports but my school, a normal comprehensive, didn’t offer rowing. Then I was tested in a special PE lesson and a few months later my parents got a phone call saying that I could be a successful rower, does your son want to try? I started at the age of 15 and hated it, but it was only because I was a slow learner. When I started to get better, I loved it.

[2] What does a training week look like?

Typically, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday are three-session days. All will start with a weights session (90min) in the gym. This will always be at 7:30. I get up at 6am to have breakfast and start my commute to the training centre. This is followed by an on-the-water session that can last up to two hours. It depends on the session that is on the programme. The final session of the day can be on the rowing machine, and is a tough, long session that can often finish you for the day. It is generally an hour non-stop. Wednesday and Saturday are half days. This would often be two sessions. A water session in the morning and then some intensity work for the second session. This can be on the water or rowing machine. The intensity sessions are hard work and can often ruin the rest of your afternoon, because you are so tired.

[3] How do you recover between races at a regatta?Moe Sbihi

Depending where we are racing, the schedule will be different. At the Olympics, we had a couple of days between races, so we had days where we were just paddling and making sure that we are rowing well. We often go for a walk after every race. This allows us to flush out our legs and talk about the race. One part of the recovery is trying to remove the race from your head. It is easy to think about it over and over again, and forget that you have another race rapidly approaching. You want to analyse, look for positives and negatives and see what you want to do for the next race. However, at the GB trials, we only got hours between our races and this is where nutrition is key. Fresh Fitness Food have supplied me with my meals for the last 11 months and during the trials, I was able to hand select what meal I wanted that day. For instance, if we only had an hour, I would eat the flapjack. During the longer gap I would eat a small pasta dish and have some yoghurt.

[4] Do you row in all conditions?

It is great being out on the water. Especially on a cold, fresh, but sunny winter’s day. We are outside the whole year. There are only certain weather conditions that would lead us to train indoors. Extremely strong winds and frozen water are the only two that I think would stop us from rowing out on the lake. Each water we go on is different as well. Our lake in Caversham, Reading, is relatively calm and not very busy. Whereas, we can go somewhere like Varese, Italy and the lake is constantly moving underneath us. It is a lot busier and bouncier. This can make the rowing quite challenging.

[5] Do you do any other outdoor training?

Whilst, there are not many times we can go on a long walk, when we are in Silvretta, deep in the Austrian Alps, we often go hiking for a maximum of three hours as part of our training and acclimatisation to altitude. The scenery there is unbelievable and we are so lucky to be able to row up there. It is beautiful.

[6] Which sportsmen and women outside rowing inspire you?

I look at characters like Michael Jordan and Michael Johnson as my early inspirations. They were extremely determined and motivated. They aimed to be the best and that is something that all athletes aspire to be like. However, it was their ruggedness and self-belief that I think was different between them and their rivals. Hicham El-Guerrouj is a Moroccan runner who was one of the best ever over 1500m. He always went into the Olympics as favourite and would always have incredibly bad luck. He was tripped. He was pushed. But at his last Olympics, he managed to succeed and win two golds in 2004 (1500m & 5000m). That story is one that I look to as inspiration if I am feeling down or things aren’t going my way.

[7] How did you celebrate winning Olympic gold?

I celebrated by doing a lot of media and then being told I was a reserve for the next day of racing. This meant the day I won my medal I was in bed by 10pm and up at 5am to go training. After that, though, I partied hard, out every night for the next 10 days. It is one of the best things about the Olympics. You can actually go out after focusing on your event for the last four years.

[8] Did you watch any other events at Rio?

I was really lucky. I managed to watch a lot of other sports. Athletics, track cycling, road cycling, waterpolo, diving, taekwondo, weightlifting and basketball. I managed to see Usain Bolt win the 100m, Mo Farah the 5,000m and the US basketball team win in the final.

[9] When will you make a decision about competing at Tokyo?

Officially, I have to start training on the 4th October. However, I will make a decision in the next couple of weeks. This will allow me to reflect on the medal and achievements and decide if rowing is still what I want to do. There are things that I want to achieve in life too; buy a house (which is very hard as an athlete), get married and start a family. Those things all play a part in the decision making process.

[10] Which other sports appeal to you?

I would love to play basketball again. When I am full time training, there is no room to do other sports, so I would love to play a match or two before I am back rowing. I am an Arsenal fan, so I do like football and love to play it too. I have recently grown to like long walks. Maybe, it is because I have matured. But there is nothing like making a sandwich, packing a bag of crisps and a slice of cake and off you go up a hill or mountain to have your lunch at the top or by a waterfall along the way. You get a sense of achievement and it makes you appreciate the views and life.

Moe Sbihi is an ambassador for Fresh Fitness Food, premium providers of personalised nutrition plans for busy professionals, fitness enthusiasts and athletes.

Images by Peter Spurrier/Intersport Images