Chasing richer waters
Josh Dunkley-Smith sits on the foreshore of Lake Burley Griffin ahead of the Lake Burley Griffin Regatta. Photo: Jay Cronan
Josh Dunkley-Smith has backed the appointment of Drew Ginn as national rowing head coach, insisting his long-time mentor can help turn Australia's Olympic scrap metal to gold.
A perennial Olympic powerhouse, Australia had its colours lowered at London, winning just three silvers and two bronze to slip to ninth on the rowing medal tally.
Dunkley-Smith and Ginn formed half of the men's four crew, which took silver behind Great Britain.
Competitors in the Lake Burley Griffin Regatta line up along the foreshore of the lake before the start of the competition. Photo: Jay Cronan
Ginn's renowned tenacity and determination are traits shared by Dunkley-Smith, rated by many as Australian rowing's next big thing.
And Dunkley-Smith believes the three-time gold medallist can give Australia a mental edge at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Dunkley-Smith is one of 20 Olympians set to compete in Saturday's inaugural Burley Griffin Regatta. Rowers, kayakers and dragon boaters will compete in heats in their own disciplines over 500 metres, with the standouts to race against each other in the Burley Griffin Cup.
''We'll be out on a training ride on the bikes or out on the water, and the amount of times he [Ginn] picks himself up and goes past you is amazing,'' Dunkley-Smith said on Friday. ''It's not physical, it's a mental thing he finds to go to the next level. People like Drew find a way to keep pushing on, and that's the difference between someone as successful as him, and others who are happy to make teams.''
Most athletes would be ecstatic at winning silver at their debut Olympics, but Dunkley-Smith has learnt from Ginn to set the bar high. The 23-year-old from Geelong remembers being deflated when the host nation pipped them, and he said Ginn would help instil that mindset through the entire squad.
''With someone like Drew on board and being the people we are, we definitely put ourselves out there for a gold,'' Dunkley-Smith said. ''On the day we didn't quite get it and that's disappointing.''
Before the Olympics, Ginn said Dunkley-Smith possessed many similarities to his Oarsome Foursome teammates, who won gold at Atlanta in 1996.
He also boasts a higher physiological capacity - measured by VO2 - than six-time rowing Olympian James Tomkins.
External expectations are high, and Dunkley-Smith knows it.
''In the end it's just a number and it's almost as much a hindrance as it is a help,'' Dunkley-Smith said.
''All of a sudden people look at you and you're not the 20-year-old coming into the system any more, you've got this big cross on your back.
''Just because someone says you're similar to another athlete doesn't make you the same as them, you still have to do the hard work to get where you want to go.''
Burley Griffin Regatta: Racing from 8.40am, main race 4pm (event site at Anzac Parade).