Olympic gold medallist Gotrel: 'Spurs fans' support overwhelming'
23 August 2016|Tottenham Hotspur
3.30pm on Saturday, August 13. We were 1-0 down at Everton. Meanwhile, 6,000 miles away, a Spurs fan had just achieved his sporting dream, the pinnacle, by winning an Olympic gold medal. It might have been the first day of the season, but we didn’t forget about one of the Spurs family securing gold - and as Matt Gotrel explains, on his greatest day, he didn’t forget about us either...
Part of the men’s eight crew that led from start to finish in Rio, Matt has an idea of how his golden moment might have played out at Goodison Park.
“Hopefully the lads saw I’d won gold in the dressing room, yes, let’s roll with that!” said the instantly-likable Olympic gold medallist. Yes, Olympic gold medallist - it’s a title for life that he’s yet to get to grips with. “Hopefully the lads saw it in the dressing room and it inspired them for the second half! I could take that!”
Naturally, Matt was otherwise engaged as we fought back from a goal down to earn a deserved point at Goodison Park.
However, once the medal ceremony was over and the gold medal draped around his neck, he turned his phone back on. “I looked at the Twitter feed and @SpursOfficial had put a Tweet out at half-time to say I’d won gold,” he said. “I was on Twitter a few hours after the medal race and the game at Everton and as you can guess, my timeline was a bit mad!”
It was via that same timeline that Matt realised the wealth of Spurs support coming his way.
Ever wondered how an Olympic rower and future gold medallist spends the morning of the most important sporting day of his life?
Here goes. “We were up pretty early, about 5.30am, did a pre-paddle. I slept pretty well the night before, I was actually quite surprised how relatively relaxed I was going into the final. If I was on my own, I’d have been more nervous but there was eight of us all together and you draw energy off that.
“You go through all the emotions in the morning, moments of joy when you are completely pumped up and ready to go and then a few moments of ‘what’s going on now?’ and ‘what if this or that happens?’ - your mind starts playing tricks on you.
“I went back to the hotel for a few hours and watched ‘Any Given Sunday’ and at the same time, I was getting all the comments through from Spurs fans all wishing me luck in the final. The support has been overwhelming.
Below: Matt and the men's eight power on in the final Lake Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas in Rio
“I have to say though, once we got on the line and took off, within about the first minute, the hardest minute where you go from flat-out sprinting to a more aerobic state - it’s quite painful – but from the moment we got our noses in front it was magic.
“I said later on TV, it was one of the easiest races of my life in terms of how I felt. The more we got ahead, the more I could see of our rivals and they were going further away and that gave me the energy to think ‘I could do this all day’ and we carried that to the end. It was brilliant.
“We were all emotional during the medal ceremony. I wasn’t thinking about what I’d achieved, it was more about the people around me, my girlfriend (Katie) in the stand, my brother (Louis) was also out here, watching them get emotional you soon realise ‘this isn’t all about me’. That’s the biggest thing. It’s more about the people around you and the people supporting you and you are doing it for your country.
“This is something that will be with me now for the rest of my life, that hasn’t sunk in yet. It’s bonkers really. You watch all Olympic sports as a child and dream about it, now it’s reality.”
As you’d expect with such a heavy schedule - one day off every two to three weeks - Matt’s visits to White Hart Lane are quite restricted. Late into Spurs but hooked immediately, his first match was against Benfica in the Europa League and it’s the European nights at the Lane that have provided his highlights so far.
“I didn’t get into properly following Spurs until I was 16, 17, when one of my best mates from school, Billie T, got me sucked in,” he explained. “I’ve come in at a good time as well, it’s been pretty amazing over the last few years and I love the way Spurs play football.
“It’s really difficult to get to Premier League matches over a weekend but I have been to a few Europa League matches and my first match was Benfica, the home leg. I’d love to go a European away match and the Champions League will be superb.
“The biggest memory I have is the night we beat Asteras Tripolis, Erik Lamela’s ‘rabona’ goal and Harry Kane’s hat-trick, but I remember Harry then going in goal. That match is my fondest memory. I was there with Billie and the lads. That was great.”
So what’s next? "I’ll enjoy it first, we’ve all earned the right to do that. I’d love to see where it takes me. Rowing has been my life for the last six years so it will be hard to get away from that. I’ll see what happens. I’m sure I’ll be fit enough for Tokyo in 2020. Perhaps I could be a centre-back at Spurs - six foot five, I’d be all right!”