Gibraltar is celebrating the success of local rower Jack Prior who was part of Team Great Britain that won the gold medal in the Men’s Eight final at the 2021 European Rowing Under 23 Championships held in Kruszwica, Poland on 5th September.
Jack’s passion for rowing came from his father who was a member of the Calpe Rowing Club which has become something of a well-established breeding ground for successful athletes. “I have been a member of the Calpe Rowing Club since I was a baby, and I would go and watch my dad race when I was younger,” he says. “I started rowing from the age of 12 and kept improving.” Jack credits rowing with keeping him fit and also with developing a discipline that helped him through his GCSEs and A levels and then at university. “It makes you realise that hard work pays off and that if you study hard you are going to get the results that you want.”
In 2018 Jack moved to the UK to attend Oxford Brookes University and has recently graduated with a Sports Coaching and Physical Education degree. Fortunately, Jack is just starting his PGCE teacher training placement in October at the City of Oxford College which means that he won’t spend time commuting and will be able to carry on training with the Oxford Brookes Rowing Club. At the moment, Jack says that his life consists of rowing and studying. “Usually on a weekend I will wake up around 6.30 am, go to training and then get back around 2pm.” It’s not all hard work and no play though. “We do have social events at the Rowing Club and the coaches understand that whilst we are at university we need to enjoy ourselves as well.”
“At first, it was a difficult adjustment going from a junior rower into the senior set up. It was during my second year that I started making good progress but unfortunately because of Covid I couldn’t really finish that year, however in my final year I really improved, and part of that was down to the standard of the people I was rowing with,” Jack explains. “My personal scores improved so much throughout that year as did the general standard of the student group here at Oxford Brookes.”
“I had to submit scores on the rowing machine in November last year and then some in January and February after which I got invited to do some trials in May where they picked out who they wanted to take to the European scene.” Of those sixteen, the twelve fastest got picked for the team.
Rowing is the ultimate team sport, where every rower must match exactly the movements of the others in the boat to achieve a successful outcome. “I was training with Oxford Brookes the whole time but the last three weeks before the competition I was training with the Great Britain team, most of whom I hadn’t met before but luckily we got on really well because everyone was in the same boat, (excuse the pun),” he laughs. According to Jack, although people were apprehensive at first, the group dynamics really picked up once they knew they had been selected to go to Poland.
The team flew out on the Thursday before the competition which was being held over the following Saturday and Sunday. “It was a whole day of travelling and then about a four hour transfer to the hotel, so we were all a bit lethargic on the Friday session,” he states. “Saturday was a preliminary race where the fastest crew gets the best lane and the slowest gets the worst lane,” Jack explains. “On that Saturday morning we did a session before our preliminary race in the afternoon and we won that, but we didn’t really know how fast everyone else was going because they could have just been playing mind games and may have been going a little bit slower on purpose.” This set the team up quite nicely for the Sunday because they were able to identify a few things they could improve on. “On Sunday we had a session in the morning and the final was in the afternoon.”
Jack says that it wasn’t until they were about two hundred metres from the finishing line that the team knew they had done it and that then it was just incredible knowing that they had crossed the line first in front of other international crews from Germany, Romania, the Czech Republic and Ukraine. “It was a magical feeling.”
However, Jack says that at first it didn’t feel like they had it in the bag. “If you look back on the live-stream we were actually down a little bit for the first 500 metres and that is when we decided we were going to push through from the 500 all the way through to half way – so we started moving through everyone else until we had about two or three seconds on the rest of the field and from there it was just a chasing game with the other teams trying to chase us down.”
There were huge celebrations when Jack returned to Gibraltar, with a big reception at the Calpe Rowing Club as well as a private reception for Jack and his family at No. 6 hosted by the Chief Minister, whose wife just happens to be Jack’s aunt.
Jack is now twenty-one years of age and will be eligible, if selected, to row for the Great Britain U23 team for one more year. “I don’t automatically go through and although it will be much the same selection process as this year, it will be a little bit easier because they know that I represented Great Britain before – but I still have to hit all the qualifying standards.”
What does the future hold for Jack? “I would eventually like to come back to Gibraltar and teach, hopefully in the area of PE which is my main interest.” Maybe we will see Jack competing in the Olympics in the future? “I don’t know, I am just going to take it year by year at the moment and see what happens,” he replies modestly.