Aldridge insists men’s four still a work in progress despite defending title

Matt Aldridge insists the men's four are still a work in progress despite coming into Belgrade as defending champions.
Matt Aldridge insists the men's four are still a work in progress despite coming into Belgrade as defending champions.

By Tom Masters

Matt Aldridge insists the men’s four are still a work in progress, despite coming into the World Rowing Championships looking to defend their title.

Aldridge, 27, from Christchurch, was not part of the crew that won gold in Racice last year, joining Freddie Davidson and David Ambler alongside Oli Wilkes in a changed boat.

Despite the two changes though, the results have been the same, with the four, who all row for Oxford Brookes University Boat Club, unbeaten in 2023, strolling to European Championship gold in the process.

Initially this season was about bringing the four together but quickly they have taken their club connection onto the international stage and despite the changes, the target for Belgrade is clear – retain the gold medal.

“We are going in as defending champions, but that is sort of the nation, the boat is effectively 50% different from last year, so as far as we are concerned, when we came into this season, it was a case of being a new boat and a new combination and seeing where we are,” said Aldridge.

“We have had a very good season, we are European champions and we have won the World Cup series, so we are going into it in a good place and there is pressure to defend the title we won last year but at the end of the day, we don’t really put much pressure on ourselves.

“We don’t try and look at it like we have this expectation and again that is similar to getting Olympic qualification, we are not necessarily going to just make sure we qualify, we are trying to win and if we win, we will qualify anyway.

“For us to be honest, it is all just about doing the same thing that we have done all season really, let everyone else put pressure on us and we’ll just do our thing.

“I am really looking forward to it, because I think we are in a good place and something exciting might happen.”

The World Championships this year are the target for the four, but Aldridge admits that Paris next year is hard not to think about.

He said: “We have got to get the job done first, we have got to qualify and get this year out of the way, once we have done that, we can have our break and come back in October looking at that.

“For the first couple of months we are going to just be fighting amongst ourselves to get the positions and get the selection and then once we are selected then we can work on the rest, so it is there, it is in the back of the mind, but you know it is coming up.

“In my head too, you try and get all the results done early to make yourselves undroppable, so rather than fighting for a spot, you are trying to get the work done here so it is almost a given.

“Obviously you still have to work for it but I think if you are solely focused on it, it is still a year away and the chances are you might not even go, someone could turn up next year and suddenly kick you out anyway, so we have to just take it one race at a time and wherever you are is where you are I suppose.”

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