"Without the lottery, it's back to the 1970s for Rowing" – Pete Reed
Pete Reed MBE has twice won gold medals at the Olympic Games.
But regardless of his sporting prowess, rowing continues to struggle to attract the sponsors and support that so many other sportsmen and women can expect.
Thankfully, Pete is supported by the Royal Navy, but started to question his rowing future a year ago when his performances started to drop.
It turned out to be an allergy to his two pet chihuahuas and with the dogs relocated, he has now re-established himself in the Men's Eight which won the World Championships in Aiguebelette, France, recently, qualifying for Rio 2016.
Here he explains the challenges and demands that he faces as an elite Olympic rower.
"My whole life is now rowing. I have everything from it, but I have also given everything to it. One makes sacrifices along the way, from small, daily choices that go the way of sport to big sacrifices.
"I don’t see my family or friends as often as I would like. I have sacrificed my career in the Royal Navy and most recently, I have sacrificed my dogs - and in turn asked my wife to do the same. They were just like family to both of us. They were so loyal and so loving. If they did understand why they had to leave, they would have gone just for me. I have had a pretty sheltered life, but I have to say that was the hardest time for me and my wife. If we didn’t support one another so well, then it wouldn’t have worked.
"They were exceptional dogs - and the media didn’t know how hard it was to give them up or even how close I was to choosing the dogs over rowing. Over a year on, I still miss them every single day. It is wonderful to know that they are happy and have an amazing new home on a farm in Scotland. I will be forever thankful to our friend Kathy who is looking after them now. Words cannot describe her.
"There was a news story entitled 'Double Olympic Champion Pete Reed isn’t in Jürgen’s top boat.' People wanted to know why not; why I wasn’t performing - that’s fair. We are publicly funded and therefore accountable to the people that support us.
"There was an important aspect of the story that I think the media did get over. I wanted people to know that I supported the new Coxless Four and Jürgen’s (Grobler, Team GB Chief Coach) decision. The four athletes in that crew had no weakness and even at my very best, I’m not sure I could have made the boat go faster. I wanted them to win and knew that if I were to be the kind of athlete that I always wanted, then I would have to be that man in the toughest times, not just the golden times. Watching the four go out wasn’t easy, but I quickly got stuck into my new role with a new coach and crew.
"Last year, I was in the second boat - the Men’s Eight. This year, I remain in the Eight, but it is the top boat, meaning all of the top strength in a very competitive squad has gone into the biggest boat. There is a bit more experience, power and endurance than last year and the rowing media has actually been very good at following our progress through this Olympiad. It’s the final chapter next year that they are all getting excited about. So am I.
"Media interest and activity has diminished significantly since the build up to London 2012. Three years ago, I naively assumed that with continued success, my profile and even earnings would grow. Sadly not. It is perhaps natural after such an epic summer for our nation, that there is a bit of a hang over, but I am hoping that the nation will soon get behind Team GB again in this coming year.
"We need the help and support in every capacity - I have always felt a proud nation behind me and my crew which builds pressure that I feed off on the very biggest stage in our sport. It is nice to be anonymous. I am not looking for fame, but as it is right now, I wouldn’t feel comfortable starting a family without being able to properly support them. I am lucky to have the Royal Navy backing me who have never faltered, but I lost all of my other sponsors after the Olympics and they haven’t been replaced. It’s not an easy time for some of the minor sports and I know the others on the GB Rowing Team, like me, are relying on a performance-based UK Sport grant funded by the National Lottery.
"We are not employed by GB Rowing. There is no pension or golden handshake. Often, I see athletes will just fall out of the team with illness or injury and have nothing to show for their time with the team other than a tick in the 30-35 age box on their job application forms.
Without that and the lottery playing public, it’s over and back to the 1970s for GB Rowing. So thank you to the Royal Navy and to the National Lottery.
"I know myself well and what I am capable of when I grind it out and I am far from dead yet. I still love training and I worked through the toughest time of my rowing career in a manner becoming of a naval officer. I have strong self belief going forward and in that of the staggeringly talented young athletes around me.
"Rowing is not easy. The rest of the world should never be underestimated, but if I earn a top seat next year, it will be in a crew with one colour on its collective mind. And that should be respected if not feared."