COMMONWEALTH GAMES: Didcot duo are out to make big impression

Ben Watson (left) and Dan Rivers pictured at St Birinus School with their Commonwealth Games equipment

Ben Watson (left) and Dan Rivers pictured at St Birinus School with their Commonwealth Games equipment

First published in Sport

How did you first get into your sport?

Ben Watson: Through school actually.

When I started at St Birinus, my form tutor was Philip Karlsson, who is the weightlifting coach at the school and he encouraged everyone in our form group to have a go.

I didn’t to start with, I played football, but all my mates were doing weightlifting so I thought why not go and have a go?

Now I’m the last one standing from when we were 11 years old.

Dan Rivers: My grandad got me into it, just as something to do in the evenings as a social thing.

We met with a local club, who were doing youth proficiency schemes to get people involved with the sport from a younger age and from there I progressed rapidly.

Who has most influenced you as a sportsperson?

BW: Same answer, my coach, Mr Karlsson.

He’s been my coach for 12 years now, he’s still my coach and I think that says a lot.

Some sportspeople switch coaches, but I listen to him and it seems to have gone well so far.

DR: I don’t know really, it’s just been a self-taught thing until I’ve got to a high level.

There are some international shooters who I aspire to be like, but I haven’t got a personal coach so it’s self-driven, a lot of it.

What does it take to be successful in your sport?

DR: That’s something I’m still trying to find out, but it takes a lot of dedication, a lot of time and hard work.

Just speaking with Ben, even though we’re worlds apart in our sports, I think there’s still a massive crossover that happens with all sports with the amount of time and dedication people put into it.

You make sacrifices for success in your sport because it’s a sport you love.

I love my sport and I’ll always try and be successful in it.

BW: I think we’ve both got good commitment in common.

I think if you’re committed to your sport you want to do well and you’d rather go training than go out with your mates. Not that I haven’t got friends – that’s come out wrong!

But you’re committed to your training and you don’t just sack it off for no reason.

How many hours of training do you do per week?

DR: For me, especially during the lead-up to the Games, I’ve tried to get up to 15 hours per week, which is a big push because I work full-time 8 am-5pm, and it’s fitting in those hours after work time.

You have to get the hours in to really make gains at the level I’m competing at.

BW: For me it’s probably slightly less, I’ve been doing probably 13 or 14 hours a week.

There’s only so much weightlifting you can do and there’s not an awful lot of additional stuff.

Is the Commonwealth Games the biggest moment of your career so far?

BW: Absolutely, by a mile.

I’ve not really done any multi-sports games.

I’ve been to age group European Championships and I did go to a World Senior Championships just for the experience a couple of years ago, but I think this is going to be another level and it’s pretty exciting.

I think it’s something you’ve just got to enjoy really and make the most of the experience.

I did go to a Commonwealth Youth Games, but this is a lot bigger than that.

They only have a few sports at the Youth Games, maybe five or six, but this is obviously a full-size senior Games, so it’s going to be another level.

DR: It’s my first multi-sport event as well, my first Commonwealth Games.

I’ve competed internationally with Great Britain and with England, but this is by far the biggest event for me.

What are your hopes for the Commonwealth Games?

BW: I don’t have any aims for the competition as such, I’m not going to say ‘I’m going to win a medal’ or whatever.

I want to enjoy it because it’s an important time, it should be one of the times of your life. I’ll go along and do my best in the competition, I’ll give it my best shot and what more can I do?

The result will come along after that.

DR: I’ve set a goal of making the finals in my events, because we’ve got qualification rounds and I want to come through in the top eight to make the final.

And then from there we’ll just see where it takes me.

There’s a lot of pressure in the finals and I just want to embrace it really. I’ve done the training, I know I’m competitive and I know at the end of the day if I compete to my best I’ll be up with the top people.

Is a medal a realistic target?

DR: I would be happy making a final in at least one of the events – that’s my goal.

If I can do that it’ll be great and I’ll be really happy.

And if not, it’s not the end of the world, it’s my first Games, but there’s no great anticipation for it.

I’ve got no weight on my shoulders to perform. I’ll just go, do the business and see where it takes me.

BW: I don’t have a big expectation as such, I’d just be happy to have a go at it and come away with the majority of my lifts being successful.

Because if those things go together – I’ve done my best, made the most of it and my lifts have been successful – then hopefully I’ll have a good result.

But you’ve no idea about placings until you’ve seen an entry list anyway.

Do you have a long-term objective beyond the Games?

BW: Probably the next one. The Commonwealth Games, if you’re a weightlifter in Britain, is your best chance of success, realistically.

So the next thing for me would be 2018 and a nice holiday in Australia.

DR: I’ll be looking to next year, hopefully making more appearances in the GB team and then looking to go to World Cups.

Hopefully that will be next year for getting quota places looking towards Rio, which would be the next big goal.

At what age do people in your sport peak?

BW: For weightlifters it’s late 20s to early 30s – so I’ve got a few years!

DR: The peak period for us is between 30 and 33, so I’m still relatively young.

I think mentally as you get older you get more confidence because you’ve done the competitions.

What are you looking forward to most about Glasgow?

DR: Competing. I don’t feel nervous in any way.

I just want to get going now, I feel really prepared.

BW: The food hall. Only joking.

I’m looking forward to competing as well, it’s what you’ve trained for.

You’ve done all the hard work now and have got to look forward to the competition.

Have you prepared for this differently to previous
competitions?

Ben Watson: No. I’ve tried to make it a bit easier in terms of work.

I don’t work full-time like Dan does. I’m part-time so I’ve got a bit more time to just recover better before my big sessions in the evenings.

But in terms of actual weightlifting training in the evenings, it’s the same or similar to before.

I look at previous competitions and study the preparation in the weeks leading up to it.

I look at what was good about the training I did and try and take the good bits from there into this one.

I guess I needed to do a little bit more, just a bit extra though.

Maybe a little bit of strength work and I’ve been doing a little bit of cycling in the mornings after hard sessions, just to get the blood flowing in the legs.It’s nothing extreme, just stick to what I know.

Dan Rivers: I try not to vary my training too much from what I usually do.
That previous training and the competitions I did have brought me up to the selection level for the Commonwealth Games, so I know I’m doing the right thing and it’s just a gradual progression through that.

My employers have been really good with helping me out with time off so I can go and train and also with transport so I can get to training camps with Team England.

So it’s just trying to get more of what I’ve been doing really, just increase the quantity, keep the quality the same and that’s it.

I don’t want to change anything now before the Games.

Away from the sport-specific training, the actual shooting, I’m just keeping up on the cardio to make sure I’m fit really.

Just getting on the bike, getting on the treadmill and doing some jogging to make sure I’m fit and healthy.

What do you recall of your St Birinus days?

DR: School was good, I enjoyed my time there.

They’ve got a good ethic on sports, they try and get you involved with it.

I was involved with the football team as well as athletics.
BW: I wasn’t as adventurous, I played football for a bit and that was it.

Do you remember each other?

BW: Not particularly. We spoke about shooting at a sixth form party and that was probably the first time we chatted about sport.
DR: We were in different year groups so you’d hear about each other, but there was not that much of a crossover.

After you were both selected, have you been speaking more regularly?

BW: Yes. We’ve been down to the pub a couple of times for a chat and Dan’s sorted me out with some shorts.

I had some kit issues, because my shorts didn’t fit as we had dodgy kit sizes!

DR: We’ve been speaking about training and talking about the crossovers between the sports.

For me it’s interesting to see what Ben does, especially the mental side of it.

Some of it’s quite similar to mine in terms of preparation and mental rehearsals and going through routines.

Mental visualisation as well, which is key in my sport and in Ben’s.

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