You and Heather Stanning are looking to retain Olympic gold in Rio. How are you feeling going into the Games, and how important is it that you’ve stayed together?
We’re both looking forward to racing. Both Heather and I always want to row in the fastest pair, no matter who we might be with, so we feel really fortunate that the two of us together are also the top combination. We love rowing and training together and feel very lucky to be so close in such a competitive environment.
All those early-morning training sessions must take huge commitment. What keeps you going?
Knowing that our competitors all over the world are doing exactly the same thing. We know we can’t afford to slacken off as there is always a team targeting that top spot.
You were born in Truro. As a Cornish girl, what do you remember about your first outdoor adventures?
Growing up, my family and I led a very outdoorsy lifestyle. No matter what the weather, even when we were toddlers my parents would pack a picnic and we would go for long walks on the beach along with my two brothers and two sisters. When we got older, my brothers and I would get a map and go and get lost on day-long bike rides across the fields.
Outside of your home county, which is your favourite part of England and Wales?
I went to university in Wales and tried to visit the Brecon Beacons when I could. They’re stunning. And I really want to go and explore more of the British coastline, as I grew up loving the sea.
You got engaged to TV presenter Steve Backshall last year in Namibia. He’s known for his extreme mountain exploits – ever tempted to join him on a challenge?
I haven’t yet had a chance! We have to virtually wrap ourselves in cotton wool as the Olympics approaches so we don’t get any injuries, although we have done some climbing together. My favourite place has been at Land’s End in Cornwall. In the future I’m hoping to join him on a kayaking or climbing expedition.
You spend a lot of the year competing overseas. What do you miss most about the UK when you’re away?
Being away from home is hard. Steve and I live by the river in Berkshire and I adore summer evenings, having a barbecue in the garden. I really love the English countryside, so once I’ve finished rowing and feel I have more energy I really look forward to being able to spend more time walking. I can’t wait to get a dog!
The flight time to Brazil is almost 12 hours. If you could choose anyone in the world to sit next to, who would offer the most inspiration?
Probably my dad! With my parents in Cornwall I only get to see them once or twice a year. He’s always been a massive inspiration and I feel that we share a very similar idea about sport. He knows how I am going to feel about my performances even before I speak to him. One of my treasured possessions is a letter he wrote to me before London 2012 telling me that no matter what the result, both my parents would be bursting with pride.
Finally, what’s the single most important piece of advice you’ve been given?
As a young athlete – I was a middle distance runner – my coach wrote ‘carpe diem’ in my birthday card, and I think ‘seize the day’ is great advice no matter what it is you are trying to achieve.