Jun 24, 2023

Having a chat with: Emma Twigg

Glad to have left the cold winter at home behind to race on the sunny Bosbaan this weekend is Olympic Champion Emma Twigg. Whilst she was making small adjustments to her oar and riggings set up after her win in the heats Saturday, we met up with her for a little chat! 

Catching up

It was her first international race in a while, so we were curious to see how it felt. Twigg told us that she definitely had to get the “cobwebs off”, referring to the fact that it was her first time making the 36 hour flight to Europe in a while and having to find the rhythm in her preparation after arriving in Amsterdam on Tuesday.  Although we did not catch it, she told us there were some “funny strokes” due to the weed in the water. However, overall the race felt good and she is happy to be back! 

For Twigg, the Bosbaan is a special place. In 2014 she won her first and only senior world title at this course, which is her second most meaningful race to her (the first one of course being her race to victory at the Tokyo 2021 Olympic games). As such, coming back to the Bosbaan brings back good and special memories. Apart from that, she likes the course as it can be fast. Which was proven  by the Australian W2- shortly after this interview by setting a new world best time (6.47.11) and later in the day with the Dutch W4- setting a new national best time!  

Apart from the course being fast and special to Twigg, she is also using the Holland Beker to prepare for WRCIII. Coming from Australia, you can only stay in Europe for three months. With the Worlds in Belgrade (Serbia) later this summer, this is the perfect way to get some racing in and working around the visa problem! The world championships are the number one priority right now, as winning those championships means qualifying for the 2024 Olympic games. Twigg hopes to make it to Paris to defend her title.  With the whole summer still to go, she says she is not quite near her top form yet, but we are sure that she will make a strong performance in tomorrow’s Semi A/B and final. After Paris the plan, for now, is retiring from rowing. However, as she has retired from rowing and came back twice, it’s more a ‘we’ll see’ than a definitive retirement. 

Twigg has been in the rowing sport for twenty years, so of course we had to ask what she loves most about it and what made her continue these past years. She replied: I love being fit and training to be the best I can be. But, as I was getting older it also changed. For me now, it is not necessarily the rowing itself, but more the social aspect of it and the lifestyle. Getting to spend three months in the EU racing, but also meeting new people, and making and catching up with friends. For example, I just met up with Karolien (Florijn, red.) for a coffee last week. I think it is quite unique in our sport. In the end, I think people don’t remember the wins, they remember the friends and people, the ones that make it fun. 

Apart from rowing, spending time with her son and watching him grow up  is her favourite way to spend time. As she loves Amsterdam and the Holland Beker, being able to bring her family here is extra special and she enjoys showing them around the city and the great food that we have here.  When asking her what her favourite food is, she surprisingly said she really finds “ontbijtkoek lekker” and then pulled a ‘ Snelle Jelle’ out of her bag. 

Strong advise 

These past few years Emma has been advocating for more LGBTQIA+ inclusivity in the rowing sport. Since marrying her wife and with the birth of her son she felt it was her responsibility to talk about it and be a role model. For her being visible and having a being a person talk to are the most important factors contributing to an environment where everyone can feel comfortable in being themselves. She herself was worried for a long time what people would think about her and for her to feel okay with herself and accept herself for who she is.  She wants to remind those who are finding themselves in a similar situation that everyone goes through a process of acceptance. Even now, when people, more than ever, can be who they want to be. For some it happens over night and for others it takes longer, and that’s okay. 

We believe the Holland Beker is an excellent race for junior rowers to get to see the top of the world and their favorite athletes racing. As such, to conclude, we asked Twigg what her number one advice to these young rowers is.  She told us that you should not necessarily want to be the best very quickly. Rowing takes a long time to learn and to master the art of it. Most people are not a world champ overnight, it takes a lot of time and commitment. You should also enjoy the process of it.