WHAT happened to rower Anthony Edwards in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games continues to shape his outlook on tough moments in life.
Edwards and his Australian lightweight men's four crew had the lead before a roaring parochial home with about 50 metres to the finish line. They could smell gold.
The French, who they had beaten in the semi-finals by a fraction of a second, finished stronger to claim gold.
It took a while for Edwards to fully appreciate that moment and what it meant for him personally and in his sporting career.
Twenty years later, the race is a reminder for what he hopes to instill in the young rowers he mentors.
"I often find myself talking about it, what I learnt," Edwards said. "Having won a silver medal, at the time it was more about losing gold rather than winning silver. My mind was full of what-ifs and disappointment instead of what we had achieved.
"I appreciate the medal I won in Sydney now as a medal that represents dealing with pressure. I use my learnings for how I deal with pressure now."
That (medal) represents dealing with pressure. I use my learnings for how I deal with pressure now.Anthony Edwards
Olympic gold eluded Edwards, a 2011 world champion, in five Games appearances.
"Five-ring fever" is what Edwards would tell The Courier he would had to keep training, to keep hungry, for 20 years before finally retiring, officially, after the 2012 London Games.
The St Patrick's College Old Boy, and Head of the Lake champion, made his Olympic debut in the 1996 Atlanta Games.
These Games marked the centennial for the Summer Olympics and took Olympic hype to a new level.
Edwards won bronze with Bruce Hick in the lightweight coxed pairs. Days after arriving home in Ballarat, Edwards was invited to a national ticker tape parade and quickly accepted. already feeling the build-up in Australian expectations for the Sydney home Games.
Sydney was the only Olympic Opening Ceremony Edwards has ever attended.
"It's really interesting that...and it was a bit of an effort to do that. We missed the first half because they had us in the gym centre before we walked the 500 metres or so to the arena. We were on our feet a long time and we missed all the atmosphere in there," Edwards said.
"I've been watching the documentary on Cathy Freeman (Freeman) and a couple of weeks before there was the Opening Ceremony from the Sydney Olympics on television.
"I was in the stadium the night Cathy Freeman won gold. It really captured the feeling that night and everything about it. It's etched in my mind.
"We missed a lot of the Opening Ceremony, but it has been good to finally watch it and see what was happening in there before we arrived."
Edwards won silver in the lightweight men's four in the 2004 Atlanta Games but missed the final in the same boat in Beijing four years later. He ventured out of retirement to step up in a veteran crew for London in 2012, to miss a medal by less than a second in the final.
By now based in Tasmania, Edwards moved from a development role with Rowing Tasmania to an elite coaching role with the Tasmanian Institute of Sport.
"Four years into that I went to the 2016 Rio Games as a spectator, just to watch. It was a side of the Games that was great to do with my family and one I felt I had to do," Edwards said.
"Then I left the sport. I felt I'd had enough and had to do something different with my life."
Edwards took up an event management role with Cancer Council Tasmania, largely driving the state's Relay for Life fundraising efforts.
This was to be an Olympic year, with the pandemic pushing the Tokyo Games to next August.
And Edwards is back in rowing.
Edwards has taken up a rowing position with The Friends' School in Hobart, similar to his previous role as rowing director with Ballarat Grammar.
He hoped to help keep sharing his learnings on the water with a new generation of rowers.
I've always enjoyed developing young people through sport, rather than trying to develop a performance/Anthony Edwards
"I've always enjoyed developing young people through sport, rather than trying to develop a performance," Edwards said.
"I do feel for the athletes involved right across the board in Tokyo, especially those for whom Tokyo would have been their first Games.
"I also feel for the athletes who might have been to two or more Games and were looking to finish in Tokyo. Now they're looking at lasting another 12 months with gruelling training. That's a hard decision. That's really tough to do. Olympics are really challenging," he said.
Ballarat City Rowing Club
FIVE-TIME OLYMPIAN: Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, London 2012.
11 world championships
SILVER: Sydney lightweight four
SILVER: Athens lightweight four
BRONZE: Atlanta lightweight four
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