Davidson insists men’s four are set for title defence despite boat overhaul

Matt Aldridge insists the men's four are still a work in progress despite coming into Belgrade as defending champions.
Matt Aldridge insists the men's four are still a work in progress despite coming into Belgrade as defending champions.

Freddie Davidson insists the men’s four crew are ready to defend their World Rowing Championships title in Belgrade despite an overhaul to the boat.

Davidson and David Ambler are the two holdovers from the victorious boat a year ago, joined by Oli Wilkes and Matt Aldridge as they look to secure Olympics qualification.

But despite the changes, the results have remained the same, with the Oxford Brookes quartet unbeaten so far in 2023, crowned European Champions along the way.

And having been in the boat last year in Racice, the 25-year-old Richmond rower has made it clear they will be going for gold again in Serbia.

He said: “I would say we are focusing more on winning the race, I think for us, Olympics qualification is going to be a by-product of performing at the level we are capable of.

“Realistically for us, if we are fighting for a qualification spot, we would already be underperforming where we think we are, we want to be up at the top of the field, fighting for a win.

“In terms of how important the win itself is, I think it would be more important for us to feel like we’ve come away from the regatta having moved on from the last race we did.

“Then if another nation goes with us or beats us, we can say, fair enough, we put our best race down, obviously we would be disappointed but we will be able to take that, whereas if we come away with a loss feeling like we could have won it, that is going to be really difficult to take.”

As an unbeaten crew with major success, the expectation is to qualify the boat for Paris next year but in life nothing is guaranteed, something that is certainly true in sport and especially rowing.

Regardless of the success of the boat, the intense nature of the competition for a place in the four, means that no one in the crew can afford to rest on their laurels.

“It is a bit of a cut-throat set-up in the sense that there is re-selection every year, so as a crew, the furthest we can really look is the next race,” he added.

“Obviously Paris is the biggest thing in the calendar but for us to make it there and be in the crew, we have to show that we can perform this year and to a high level every time.

“So it is always in the back of the mind but I feel we have to just block that out and make sure it is a stepping stone to make sure we are there.

“It is there in the back of the mind but it is not a concrete ‘this is what we are going to do, this is how we are going to get to Paris.’

“It is more a case of, if we do well here, maybe we will get selected in a boat for the start of next season, if we do well there then maybe we will get selected for the next race and if we do well there then we will get selected for Paris.

“But having said that, I think rowing is one of those sports where you can look back at the Olympics and the results from the last two years and it is generally the same nations and the same crews who are doing well year-on-year.

“We know if we are doing well this year, we have a good fighting chance to be in with a shout in Paris, so we are building towards Paris but we have to get there first.”

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