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Forest Gate Olympic champion Mark Hunter prepares for Stratford's British Indoor Rowing Championships

PUBLISHED: 18:59 10 December 2015 | UPDATED: 19:09 10 December 2015

Olympic rowing champion Mark Hunter takes to the water at the Queen Elizbateh Olympic Park

Olympic rowing champion Mark Hunter takes to the water at the Queen Elizbateh Olympic Park

Archant

Thousands of rowers of all abilities will be in action at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on Saturday, and Olympic champion Mark Hunter MBE wants as many people as possible to come down and watch.

Olympic rowing champion Mark Hunter takes to the water at the Queen Elizbateh Olympic ParkOlympic rowing champion Mark Hunter takes to the water at the Queen Elizbateh Olympic Park

The British Indoor Rowing Championships will see professionals and novices alike line up alongside one other on rowing machines at the Lee Valley VeloPark.

Although not competing himself, the 37-year-old, from Forest Gate, will be encouraging competitors while enjoying the action from the sidelines.

“I want as many people as possible to come along and watch,” he said.

“You’ve got some of the national team performing there and to watch the elite perform is quite inspiring but what’s great is that the event is open to everybody.

Olympic rowing champion Mark Hunter takes to the water at the Queen Elizbateh Olympic ParkOlympic rowing champion Mark Hunter takes to the water at the Queen Elizbateh Olympic Park

“Anyone can come and give it a go – you get to compete in the same arena as the national team which is pretty amazing.

“I’ll be there as an ambassador to encourage people to give it a go, push themselves, enjoy it and just chat with people about the sport.”

Now working as an ambassador for analytical software producer SAS, Mark’s glittering career saw him win the lightweight double skull gold medal with Zac Purchase at the 2008 Beijing Olympics before being made an MBE six months later.

In 2013 he made the decision to hang up the oars after narrowly missing out on a second gold at London 2012 and admits it took a while to get used to life after professional rowing.

“I miss being super-fit, definitely,” he added. “There’s no better job for me than being an elite athlete – I loved it, it was amazing – but unfortunately my body couldn’t keep going. Age plays a factor at some point.

“I miss the competition side and the training side but there’s things I don’t miss. Getting up early every morning, not having any holidays or weekends, being injured – I don’t miss any of those things.

“My diet’s definitely changed as well – I’m about two stone heavier than when I used to compete.

“As a lightweight I was always very detailed about what I ate and was always dieting whereas now I don’t have that structure which can be a good thing and a bad thing – things have gone a bit soft now.”

Mark fell in love with sport while watching the likes of Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and began rowing aged 14 at the Poplar Blackwall & District Rowing Club. Alongside his commercial role, the two-time world champion is currently the programme director of London Youth Rowing and hopes his own success can inspire the next generation of to give the sport a go.

“I remember as a kid you look at elite athletes on TV competing and performing and you think they’re superhuman, but they’re not,” he explained. They’re just people that have a goal, worked extremely hard, committed, made sacrifices and made it happen.

“I come from round here and went to the Olympics which shows that anything’s possible, it’s up to you to put your mind to something. The opportunities are there to try the sport and it’s a lot of fun. You’re out in the open, the fresh air especially when the sun shining it’s great.

“You get to travel and meet people from different locations and it teaches a lot of skills you’ll be able to use at school, college or when you go to work – working with different people towards a goal, as a team.”

Mark Hunter is an ambassador for SAS – the leader in analytics software and services.

SAS is the Official Analytics Partner of British Rowing and the GB Rowing Team. Visit sas.com f=more.

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