Wells hoping to end his rowing career on a high

MATT Wells is determined to finish his rowing career on a high despite the intense disappointment of missing out on his preferred event at this summer's Olympic Games.

Hexham-born Wells will retire after competing in his fourth Olympic regatta, having won a bronze medal in Beijing four years ago and also represented Great Britain at Athens and Sydney.

His last two Olympic appearances were in the double scull, and having become a specialist at the event, the 33-year-old was expecting to complete a hat-trick in the double this summer.

However, British Rowing head coach Jurgen Grobler sprang a surprise by selecting the relatively unproven pair of Bill Lucas and Sam Townsend in the double, forcing Wells to drop down to the quadruple sculls alongside Stephen Rowbotham, Tom Solesbury and Charles Cousins.

The quartet now have just two months to get up to world standard, and while they boast sufficient talent to push for a medal, Wells admits this is not the way he envisaged his career coming to an end.

"I'm still in the Olympics, and without a doubt that's a really positive thing," said the former Queen Elizabeth High School student. "I'm working towards that really well.

"But when, through no fault of your own, you have the position you think is yours taken away from you, it hurts. When you've performed all year, but it still gets taken away from you, that's tough. There's no way around that. It's really disappointing and really hard to take.

"Neither boat (double or quadruple) is doing particularly well at the moment, but the coaching team made their call to try to sort things out. They thought they had selected a quicker double, but the results so far suggest they maybe haven't.

"The quad is a really new boat and we genuinely feel we can move on and improve. But in terms of winning the event, it's a completely different situation I'm in now. Had I been in the double, I would really have fancied our chances. Now, it's much tougher and there's no getting away from that."

To make matters worse, Wells had no inkling of what was to come as he attended the selection briefing ahead of the opening World Cup of the year last month.

His performances in the winter trials had been better than those of his rivals, and he was fully expecting to be named in the double for the regatta in Belgrade. Instead, when the team was announced, he was demoted to the quad.

"I didn't see it coming at all," he said. "We finished all our selection trials, and I really didn't think that anyone would be chosen ahead of me.

"The guy that supposedly took my place hadn't even done the second lot of trials. So to be sitting in a meeting and suddenly discover that he's been placed in front of you is really hard to take. That was a massive shock.

"Obviously that day was really hard to take, but from there it was a case of drawing a line under things and trying to move forward. I could either have stopped then or tried to move forward and make the most of things. That's what I've done.

"I want to make the most of things, and we have a really great chance of getting a medal. That really would be a win for us. The amount I've sacrificed and put aside for this, I have to give it my best shot."

Attention now shifts to the final World Cup of the season in Munich next weekend, with the new-look quad looking to improve on their results in Belgrade and Lucerne, where they failed to make the final.

Their training performances have been improving week-on-week, but with the Olympic opening ceremony now less than 50 days away, time is clearly running out.

"The boat only got put together eight days before the first World Cup, so we only had a week to prepare," said Wells. "We had a load of seat racing before the next World Cup, so still only had a week to actually prepare for the race.

"We've had seven days since the last World Cup and it feels much more positive now. To make the final of the last World Cup, we would have to have broken the world record by two seconds. To expect us to have done that after two weeks together is unrealistic. But we know we're moving forward and we know there's a lot more to come."

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