Philip Collins on being a supporter at WRChamps in Sarasota

Philip Collins has been travelling abroad to support his son, sculler John Collins, for 10 years now. He travelled to Sarasota for the World Rowing Championships and rated the event the best organised yet. With the drama of Peter Lambert’s last-minute replacement by Graeme Thomas in the M4x, the event was no less stressful than it ever was for a parent. We caught up with Philip on his return home to Twickenham.

I used to row at Auriel Kensington and Tideway Scullers but gave up when I got married to John’s mother, Kathy. When John started rowing I was taking him down to Putney Town and decided to have another go there. I would love to take it up again but I started my own business and picked a few injuries so drifted away. I hope to have time to get back to it but as you know it takes a lot of time to even be mediocre at it!

I went to Sarasota on my own on Friday as Kathy was tied up at work and frankly, she found after Rio that she could do without the stress of watching John competing!  I actually find it more stressful than she does but I tend to go silent – some of the other parents are a lot more vocal but I curl up and sit quietly – everybody deals with it differently. Rio was off the scale – watching John and Jonny Walton progress in the double over two weeks was so stressful for us both.

John Collins, rowers with GB and Leander Club. Image by Angus Thomas for WEROW Life

John Collins of Leander Club

I went down to the Sarasota course on Sunday morning when the competition started. Maggie Netto and Lowenna Coad of British Rowing managed to arrange everything for the families and we were in the best seats in the house. We have a WhatsApp group for the supporters and it worked really well.

I have done a few of these international regattas now but Sarasota was absolutely head and shoulders above anything else. The venue was fantastic – it didn’t have the backdrop of Rio but the water was like glass for the most part. The facilitates were fantastic – I don’t think we’re going to get many air-conditioned toilets at Dorney anytime soon! The Americans had gone to a lot of trouble considering the hurricane had passed through there a couple of weeks before. They promoted the event very well too – we were staying 30 miles away from the course and people were talking about it, everyone you spoke to knew it was going on.

John Collins with father Philip after WEChamps, Sarasota
John Collins has a beer with his father at WRChamps in Sarasota

John and Philip celebrate at WRChamps 2017

It was interesting this year because this is John’s tenth year of international competition and of course we’ve got to know a lot of the GB families and supporters. This year was different because there are many new faces. But Jonny Walton’s parents were there and of course, we’ve been through fire with them over the years, and the Beaumont’s. But the Hodges, the Houghtons etc have all gone so it was as if a new guard had appeared. The men’s sweep squad and the women’s squad is like a whole new team and it’s going to take some building. Fantastic ambassadors for the sport like Katherine Granger, Fran Houghton, Jesse Eddie and Alex Gregory,  were around for a long time at a very high level so they’ve left a big void.

We didn’t see John much during the event but we tend to let him go about his business. This year the stress was a lot easier because all the drama of Peter Lamberts back happened so quickly. The first we heard was that there was a ten-minute delay. I was looking down the lake and you could see boats on the course so thought it was ok but then one of the other parents told me that he had heard Petes back had gone. It was all a bit numbing because the boys had such a good chance of taking on the Lithuanians and then that happened. But they raced and got the silver. It was incredible – Graeme did a fantastic job stepping in for Peter like that.

I was sitting with the Lamberts, Beaumonts and the Waltons – it was really hard for the Lamberts having travelled all that way. But Graeme Thomas’ parents know all about that from Rio and it was very moving to see their excitement as Graeme got his seat in the final. We all went out, the five families after the race and I think I would have struggled to be as generous as Peter Lamberts family – they are lovely people.

Cathy, John & Philip Collins at Henley after winning the Stewards Challenge Cup 2017

Kathy, John and Philp Collins after winning the Queen Mother Cup at Henley

John doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve but I think he knows that what they did was pretty special. His eyes are on the bigger prize in 2020. He will see this as a step on the way. A couple of beers were taken after with the athletes. It’s nice to be part of it – we chatted to Mo Sbihi – it was like being with one of the Beatles, people were mobbing him for autographs. But overall, in spite of Peter’s injury, it was a great event and we were really well looked after by British Rowing. I’m saving up for Tokyo now!

You can read our profile of John Collins here.

2017-10-26T15:14:44+00:00 October 26th, 2017|Categories: Athlete, Regatta|Tags: , , , , |