Jasper's expectations the perfect carrot for Gregory
IF THE weight of expectation from a gold-hungry nation was not enough, Alex Gregory will approach London 2012 with a greater personal pressure on his broad shoulders.
The 28-year-old from the small Cotswold village of Wormington approaches his first Olympic Games with two things weighing on his mind.
First comes the drive to perform and help propel his crewmates to a second consecutive gold medal in the men's four, and second comes an entirely different and more unusual pressure from home.
Prior to his departure on Team GB's pre-Games training camp in the Swiss Alps, Gregory would return home from training each day to a direct question from two-year-old son Jasper.
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The question would start with a simple, "how was rowing today daddy?" before getting right down to the nuts and bolts of the situation – "Have you won your gold medal yet?"
Able to laugh off his son's direct interrogation, Gregory adopts a serious tone when saying that his son is his inspiration as well as a special weapon in his quest to get ready for the gamers.
"It's no question that having Jasper around has been great for me as it's given me a bit of normality to go back to at the end of the day," Gregory said.
"He's two and a half now and when I go home I can just totally forget about rowing and the inevitable stresses and strains it brings.
"It's also probably good for the fitness and endurance as well, as I come home tired and then have to do a whole new training session with him!
"We have to do a lot of running around and head off to the park and that's great as it clears the mind.
"He is getting a bit aware of what's going on, he always asks me 'how's rowing daddy' when I get home.
"He's also asking 'where's your medal?' as he thinks that you win a medal every day and not just on special days.
"But there's no doubt that he's an inspiration to me. I will be racing for him and have him in my mind on the start line – he will be driving me on."
London 2012 will not be Gregory's first taste of an Olympic Games, although it will be his first taste of competition on the greatest stage.
He travelled to Beijing four years ago as the reserve rower in the four, undergoing the full slog of the pre-Games training, only to emerge without the pay-off of competition and a medal.
But after the retirement of two-time gold winner and former Cheltenham schoolboy Steve Williams from the four after Beijing Gregory stepped into the boat.
World Championship gold was won in 2009 and again last year, before a big shake-up in the team prior to the Olympics saw the quartet changed.
With Andy Hodge and Nailsworth's Pete Reed moved back into the four after two-years of toil in the pair, Tom James with whom they rowed in Beijing joined them and so too did Gregory.
And there comes the second pressure.
Joking about the makeup of the crew, Gregory said that he knows where the eyes will be looking if the quartet fail to strike gold.
"I watched the three lads cross the line and win their gold medals in Beijing and I know they can do it," he said.
"And in a funny way I have to prove to them that I can do it – if we don't then I suppose it's my fault.
"I don't feel that pressure, nor do the other guys say it to me, it's just something that I've said to myself as a joke on occasions.
"We get on really well as a boat and it's exactly where I want to be as four years ago I was spare man and was just a bit on the outside of it all.
"I got to go to Beijing and watch everything happen but I didn't really feel a part of it. However, this time I am so it's a massively different feeling.
"And what a Games to be part of. It's perfect for it to be in our own country.
"It happens so rarely and it will never happen again for us, so it's a real privilege.
"It's worked pretty well as a four. It's not been perfect right from the start and it's still not perfect now.
"But we're doing everything we can to make it work and we're all really enjoying ourselves. It's going really well and the target is to peak at the Olympics.
"There is only one race this season that we have to win and that's the Olympic final, all the others are just building up to that."
And if the British four do win gold, then Jasper's school friends can look forward to a very special day in a couple of years.
When the class take out there nick-nacks and collectables on show and tell days, teacher and classmates will be in for something of a shock.
"Hopefully Jasper will be able to take a gold medal to school on show and tell days," Gregory.
"He'd surely be the best in the class then."