Injury is difficult for any athlete. It can derail your season, or even your career. All your hard work gone. Emily Craig has been out of the boat this season with an ongoing back injury. Nothing career threatening, but enough for her to have missed two of the World Cups this summer, and the European Championships in Glasgow. But Emily still has her eye firmly set on Tokyo.
How you deal with an injury is vital. Emily is fortunate that there is a great medical team and group of physiotherapists working at Caversham, where the GB rowers train, ready to deal with any injuries. They have helped Emily to adapt her training, so while she may not be spending any time in a boat she can try and maintain fitness. This will help to prevent any further aggravation to her back.
When water time is not an option, training moves to the land. Emily has spent a lot of time in the gym and on the bike. It is important to take training on a day-by-day basis, with achievable goals. Any rehab she does now will ultimately make her a stronger rower as she builds towards the Olympics in 2020.
As a lightweight, any changes in training or workload can create an extra challenge. Emily made it to race weight, a measly 57kg, for the World Cups in Linz and Lucerne and the European Championships, only to find herself unable to race. When your training load is reduced, staying light can be harder. As the season has gone on, not being able to race has got progressively harder for Emily.
At first, Emily watched some of the racing, keeping a close watch on what was going on in the women’s lightweight doubles. As her back problems have persisted, it has become more difficult for her to be sitting on the sidelines. While the GB team were racing in Glasgow, including her doubles partner, Ellie Piggott, Emily planned a weekend away from rowing, deleting all the social media from her phone and allowing herself time away from the sport.
During rehab, any time off training means Emily should be resting. At these times, she says Netflix is great company and she has picked up her flute again. While at university Emily could throw herself into her studying, now as a full-time rower it is harder to escape, as she still has three sessions of rehab a day. This can make it much harder to deal with taking time out of the boat, as rehab can serve as a constant reminder of what you are missing out on.
While training is about taking it day by day, Emily hopes to be back in shape for the World Championships, held in Plovdiv from 9-16th September. Even if things don’t work out for this season, Emily knows anything done now to help strengthen her back will benefit her as the Olympiad progresses and she aims for the start line in Tokyo.
Photograph by Naomi Baker