The captain is back on the bridge!
That must be the conclusion for Morten Jørgensen following an almost miraculous medical turnaround. Last week, the Olympic silver medallist was selected for the Danish LM4- that will compete at the Olympics in Rio after almost a whole season out.
Last year Morten Jørgensen’s significance for the ‘Golden Four’ (as they are referred to in Denmark) was compared to Cristiano Ronaldo’s role at Real Madrid in the magazine ROW 360. Off the back of that analogy, confidence will surely be going through the roof at the Danish national team headquarters with the knowledge that Jørgensen, whose name carries the weight of a potential future nomination for the Thomas Keller Medal, is ready to reclaim his position at stroke.
At the end of the Danish training camp in February of last year, Jørgensen was diagnosed with over-training after he struggled from heavy fatigue. He couldn’t keep up with the heavy training load, which team mates Kasper Winther Jørgensen, Jacob Barsøe and Jacob Søgaard completed every day. In the case of Morten Jørgensen, it was very much personal circumstances which triggered the over-training symptoms. An unplanned incident sent the brain into overdrive, preventing Jørgensen from getting the required mental rest.
“It is not because I trained more or in different ways that I am used to,” Jorgensen tells RowGlobal. “A member of my family passed away after being diagnosed with cancer and that meant that I was under severe mental stress for a longer term. I had to handle that along with my training schedule. At some stage, my body just wasn’t able to cope any more”.
For a 30-year old guy who has won Olympic and world championship gold twice, you could surely have forgiven him if he had chosen to call it a day and focus on family life and his job as a financial adviser. But not Morten Jørgensen. “I was never going to call it quits”, he explains. “My body would explode and my girlfriend, who was also a rower herself, would go insane. I want to get back in the boat, I want to be a part of that crew, I want to have a goal to pursue, I want to compete”.
As it turns out, Morten Jørgensen’s quest has been an uphill struggle all the way; the competitiveness of the squad means there is always somebody waiting in the wings ready to take over your position. The reputation of the lightweight men’s four in Denmark means that every boy would be ready to give his right arm for a chance to become a member of the crew. As it were, Jens Vilhelmsen, who has been a part of the crew before, was brought in and a superb partnership was formed in the reshaped quartet. A partnership of such quality that it was good enough to earn the Danes a remarkable silver medal at the World Championships in Aiguebelette last year, and qualify them for the Rio Olympics in spectacular fashion.
But despite the impressive results, it was difficult for Vilhelmsen to understand what was happening. “I had never made any plans to go to the Olympics when I was brought into the crew in February 2015. To sit in that boat was really so surreal that I struggled to truly believe that I was going to be part of the crew that was going to the Olympics” Vilhelmsen told RowGlobal. However, only two months ago, Vilhelmsen’s dream was still very much alive as Jørgensen still had not overcome the symptoms of over-training. Experts at the Danish national team training headquarters started to wonder if Jørgensen had run out of time. But then the Danish legend made a decision that would change everything.
The Turning Point
“I decided to go for it. I thought – it’s now or never. I threw myself off the cliff to see where I would land” explains Jørgensen. He was invited to the training camp in Avis along with the rest of the Danish national team and began completing the same training schedule as the rest of the crew. His results showed great promise, confidence grew and Jørgensen started to reveal signs of his former self. In the end, it was enough for coach Bent Fransson to stick with Jørgensen over Vilhelmsen.
“Jens has done a wonderful job for us, but it is my responsibility to select the crew that will make the boat go as fast as possible,” explained Fransson after announcing his decision. “A Morten at his best is a little bit in front of Jens”. Morten has understandably been over the moon about having regained his position in the boat, but is keeping his feet on the ground in true Danish style. “Of course, it is amazing that I am back,” he says excitedly. “But this was only the first step and now the hard part begins. The difficult thing now will be to maintain that level”. Only time will tell if further Olympic glory is in store for Jørgensen.
Photo credit Danish Rowing Fedration