Olympic hopeful, Zak Lee-Green, (far right) is 22 years old and will enter his final year in September. He comes from Cardiff and has already won a bronze medal in the 2010 Under-23 World rowing Championships at his first attempt and last year was selected to carry the Olympic Torch around his home city. It now sits proudly in his home.
He began rowing at school, Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Plasmawr, a school in which the students are taught entirely in Welsh, making him a fluent Welsh speaker. On reaching 16 he took up rowing seriously and must have been exceptional as, within 3 days of committing to the sport, he was invited to join the Welsh squad and went on to win 3 Welsh vests in the next two years.
On being admitted to study Dentistry in Manchester he joined Agecroft Rowing Club, based in Salford Quays, and was quickly accepted into the GB World Class start programme aimed at developing raw talent into Olympic champions. He quickly proved himself one of the fastest competitors and within 10 months had earned 2 Great Britain vests, the second when he won his World Championship Bronze Medal in the men’s quad, in 2010.
He continues to train at Agecroft and has represented GB at 2 further U23 world championships. In 2012 he was 8th in the double sculls U23 World Championship and in the same year he contested the senior British Trials in Eton Dorney finishing 7th in the single scull. Despite missing almost 3 months of winter training this year due to illness he has been selected for this years’s U23 World Championships (which will be his last), and recently won the Marlow Regatta single scull title.
Being a lightweight rower means that he has to weigh 72.5kg (11st 7lb) or less and in crew boats the crew are allowed an average weight of 70kg. Being 6ft 1inch tall Zak often has to lose weight before an event. To ensure he meets this criterion he is weighed 2hrs before each race. This contrasts starkly with the unrestricted teams who stand over 6ft 7ins tall on average and weigh over 105kgs. This restriction in weight in Zak’s class takes away size advantage, putting all the emphasis on pure skill and strength. Each World and Olympic team is allowed a total of only 6 lightweight competitors per games.
Zak trains twice a day, 6-7 days a week, and each session lasts between 40 and 100 mins varying between training on the water, on a rowing machine and doing weights. He does a lot of cycling to and from university which is factored into his training. He trains for 50 weeks a year providing he doesn’t have to take time off for illness or injury. Fitting training in around university is difficult as it involves early starts and late finishes and means getting up at 6am and not returning home until 8pm having done 2 training sessions and 9-5 attendance at the Dental Hospital, but he finds that EBL, which is the method by which the students are taught in Manchester, allows him to work in his breaks and to catch up at the weekends.
His schedule is pretty tough on his girlfriend, he says, who has to put up with him being tired, hungry and aching a lot of the time, but alongside his physio, she keeps him going and well grounded. He feels confident going into his final year but says his biggest dilemma will be to decide what to do once he has graduated. Should he do his VT straight away or should he train full time for the 2016 Olympics? It’s a decision he will need to make in consultation with his coach, GB rowing and the Dental School (not forgetting his girlfriend).
Despite being supported by sponsors he still has to buy a top of the range boat to give himself the best chance of making it to the top spot in his sport. The best single scull costs around £9,500, towards which he has £6,000 consisting of his present boat, plus some savings. In the London Olympics the lightweight competitors won 2 silver medals, Zak wants to go one better in Rio; so if anyone would like to sponsor him or knows of anyone who can, please contact me and I’ll put them in touch with Zak. In the meantime, I’m sure I speak for the combined membership of Somanda when I wish him every success in both his rowing and his dental careers.