I started rowing age 11, playing about in a boat because I really wasn’t much good at the other sports I tried.

By age 16 I was hooked, and wrote on the back of a piece of card, “I vow to do everything I can to get to Sydney 2000.”

Four years later I represented Great Britain as the youngest member of our most successful team ever.

When I returned from my first Olympic Games in Sydney I was so inspired by the experience that I counted out on my fingers how many more Olympic Games I could fit in and made my second vow to myself:

‘To be the first British woman to go to five Olympic Games in rowing.’

I spent 21 years performing both as an individual and in teams, holding unbeaten runs and world records as well as enduring phases clinging on to my place in the squad.

Mid way through my career I took time out to train as a chef, and returned to sport with fresh perspective.

As we closed down on the Olympic Champions in the final stages of the final in Rio 2016, I realised that changing my mindset had taken me closer to Gold than I ever thought possible.

Since retiring in 2016 I have moved to Cornwall, walked hundreds of miles of coastline and countryside footpaths, and written Learnings From Five Olympic Games.

I feel privileged to have worked with incredible teammates and support staff every step of the way through my career. We celebrated the good days together and held steady with each other through the days of sheer exhaustion or seemingly inexplicable lack of form. Together we created incredible performances we could never have produced alone.

Sydney 2000 

I came second to last in the Women’s Double. Far from a low point, seeing teammates stand on the Olympic podium made me believe I could do that too.

Athens 2004

My first Olympic medal. Going into the Games, I wasn’t sure if we would make the final, but we had prepared our performance to perfection. We peaked for racing, set the second fastest time ever recorded for the event in our heat, and won Olympic silver. My first senior international medal.

Beijing 2008

Every day from the moment we stood on the podium in Athens was about winning Gold in Beijing. We went into the Games as three times reigning World Champions and joint favourites, aiming to win the first ever Gold for British women’s rowing. We were leading the final with 150m to go, but were pipped to the Gold medal by the home-favourites, the Chinese. We had failed to win Gold in front of millions of expectant spectators. I was proud of our performance, we had given everything every day for four years, but this silver medal felt very different.

London 2012

Whilst others had the experience of a lifetime, London was a cycle of challenges for me. After seemingly endless injuries I was struggling with form and we just couldn’t seem to gel as a team. Less than half an hour after our teammates Heather Stanning and Helen Glover won the first Gold for Team GB, we limped home 6th in our Olympic final.

Rio 2016

I had made it to my fifth Olympic Games – only the fifth woman in any sport to do so for Great Britain – and I was in one of the best teams I had ever had the privilege to be a part of. Sitting on the Olympic start line beneath the out-stretched arms of the Christ the Redeemer statue I knew my whole career would be defined by the next six minutes.

Two years earlier, burnt out with injury and illness, I had changed my mindset from winning at all costs, to focusing on the opportunity of each day: building an understanding of my teammates and discovering what we could create together.

At half way we were trailing the field and for a moment I thought we had blown our opportunity. But as other teams faded and we held together, we came back through the field to secure our medal, my third Olympic silver. Standing on the Olympic podium with my arms around my teammates I realised that changing my mindset had not only transformed my experience of competing at the highest level, but it had raised our performance beyond what I ever thought possible.

My book Learnings From Five Olympic Games chronicles what lay behind those six minutes. From piecing together the characteristics of the best teams I was in, to cementing my own fundamental belief, and working as a team every day towards our ultimate race… It is the accumulation of my notes and learnings from over my 21 year career, and how I applied them for my one last chance in Rio.