Spotlight on Tom Broadway

Tom Broadway, winner of silver with the men’s eight at the 2010 World Championships, is one of the squad’s quieter men.  He tells us how he got into rowing and what he feels are the attributes needed for success.

Tom Broadway began rowing at Bedford School aged 14 participating in other sports too such as rugby, cricket, hockey and karate.  From a young age he always had a desire to compete for his country, coupled with the fact that his school had a strong reputation for rowing, Tom thought it would be a good sport to try out. 

“My Dad rowed at Sheffield University in the first eight so he also thought it would be a good idea for me to try it out and see if I liked it.  Despite being 6 foot 3, I still consider myself at the short end of the spectrum in rowing terms, however I was taller than my Dad so thought I’d be in with a good shout.”

Tom was particularly good at karate achieving a red belt in his discipline by the age of 15.  However, when he began boarding at the school shortly afterwards unfortunately he could no longer continue with karate as it was an out of school activity. 

“I was good at the other sports I did at Prep School but I didn’t enjoy them as much as rowing so I didn’t take them quite as seriously.  Consequently I was no way near the level I had achieved in rowing at a young age so when I started boarding I decided to concentrate all my efforts on rowing.  I don’t think I truly realised at the time how much commitment, dedication and time I would need to put into the sport to reach my goal of competing for Great Britain.”

Linton Guise coached Tom throughout his years at Bedford School, for which he acknowledges his positive influence early on in his rowing career.  Gaining exposure to senior squad rowers wearing their GB tracksuits was another particularly motivating factor that made Tom want to do the same one day.  Tom had a real turning point aged 16, up until then he had always been one of the better rowers in his year group.  He realised that in order to make that next step up it was going to be a lot harder than he previously thought, so from then on he made a commitment to really start applying himself to rowing.

He certainly reaped the rewards of his hard work as in 2000, aged 17, Tom got his first GB vest.  Despite having to adapt to a change of partner in the pairs trials, he was successful in making the World Junior Championship team where he finished 9th in the coxed pair.  He went on to represent GB at U23 level although he admits that it was a disappointing few years in terms of international success.  This also coincided with his transition from school to University.

“I wanted to go to a London University mainly because of the rowing and University College London had a good reputation so I chose to study Physiology there for three years, going on to study for a Masters. “

During his time at University Tom rowed for University of London Boat Club where he was coached by Rusty Williams and Tim Foster.  He explains how the training programme was very different to that at school, particularly in terms of the increase in load and distance. 

“It was a bit of a shock to me at the start as we were doing a lot more mileage and weights, well more of everything really!  It was quite a challenge getting into a routine of balancing my academic and rowing commitments, however these days schools are doing a lot more distance in their training so the step up isn’t quite as extreme now as what I experienced at the time.”

After making the senior team in 2005, Tom spent two years training full time with the squad whilst completing an advanced certificate finance course at Birkbeck College which suited his training well.   He could train in the day and attend College in the evenings.  Illness and a stress fracture to his rib, though, meant he missed the remaining 2006 season and much of 2007. 

“It was an extremely frustrating time for me as the illness meant I would get tired without doing much, so I had to very steadily build my training back up.  That, compounded with my stress fracture, meant it was difficult to come back into the team with a chance of making the Olympics so I was naturally very disappointed to miss out on Beijing.”

Since 2007 Tom has rowed for Leander Club, coached by Mark Banks and Chris Collerton.  Initially Tom trained with the Club rowers, but after overcoming his setbacks he made it back into the senior squad in 2009 and most recently won silver with the men’s eight at the World Championships in New Zealand.

“It was a great feeling to make it back into the senior team, especially after the disappointment of missing out on the Olympic year due to illness and injury.”

Tom identifies several attributes that make a successful rower.  Firstly, as a pre-requisite it is important to have the right physique such as long limbs, however he acknowledges that some Olympic Champions are shy of 6 foot.  Commitment is incredibly important, also a willingness to make sacrifices to personal and social life in order to achieve a goal.  Lastly, having the right mental toughness and awareness to push yourself day in day out in what can be quite a repetitive training environment is crucial. Also it is important to adapt technically through an understanding of what makes a boat go well. This is important to achieving success. 

In his spare time Tom particularly enjoys playing the guitar to help him relax, as well as catching up with friends who are not on the rowing scene when he can.  Reading is another hobby he enjoys to help him relax, a common interest that a lot of other rowers adopt especially when on training camps. 

Tom’s ultimate goal is to get an Olympic gold medal, but in the short term he aims to make the men’s eight for this year with a view to winning the World Championships.