At 24, David Watts has ticked off more life experiences - most good, some not - than most people twice his age. After being singled out while still at school as possessing the physical attributes required for a rower, Watts - then pursuing his goal of becoming a pro swimmer - made the switch, ushering in years of hard-core training, global meets and now, his first Olympics.
Watts competed in the Olympic Men's Double Sculls semi-finals with Chris Morgan overnight, the end game of a not-so-smooth road to Rio: in February last year, Watts suffered from atrial fibrillation and was told he'd never row competitively again. The blow fell hot on the heels of the serious heart surgery Watts had in September 2014 to treat his supraventricular tachycardia, which he was diagnosed with at the age of eight.
And yet, late last night he lit up the nation's TV screens with his first Olympic semi-final. Before the race, Watts clued us in on what it takes to train at an Olympic level, from diet to downtime, plus what's next. Did we mention he's also a keen fashion photographer? More on that below.
How do you stay focused before a major race?
I try to stay focused by keeping my daily routine simple, making sure I get the required amount of recovery in that will set me up best for competing.
What does your training routine involve?
The training routine entails about 14 sessions a week, between 2-3 hours in each session. These sessions vary from rowing on the water, to training in the gym and on the ergometers (rowing machines).
What diet guidelines do you follow?
I'm probably not the best role model when it comes to eating a balanced diet while training; I do have a bit of a sweet tooth so enjoy the occasional sweet every now and then. Being in an endurance sport allows me to make up the calories in whatever form necessary.
What's your typical 'day on a plate'?
The typical day on my plate would be a bowl of cereal in the morning with a bowl of fruit, after the first session I would have another bowl or two of cereal followed by a coffee or flavoured milk. After the second morning session is generally a sandwich or banana until I make lunch, which would generally consist of a plate or two of salads, meat and pasta. An afternoon snack would be a bowl of cereal (if you haven't seen the trend now I do happen to love cereal) and then dinner would be similar to lunch with the potential for a dessert (which varies).
Are there any foods/drinks you avoid?
I try to maintain my calorie intake however I can, so don't tend to steer clear from any foods. In saying this I make sure that I don't start living off junk food.
Given how hard and often you must train, how do you avoid injuries?
Avoiding injuries is essential to preparing well for competitions. I try to touch base with my doctor and physio on a weekly basis and follow their advice on what they think will give me the best chance at succeeding.
Olympic-level training aside, how do you prefer to work out?
Away from rowing, I like to run, cycle and go to the gym as cross training in my own time. I also love to surf but probably wouldn't class that as 'working out'.
Who inspires you?
My biggest inspiration would be my mum, she's been there with me my whole rowing career and has helped me out any way she could to make sure that it was possible to keep doing what I love each and every day.
Which elite athlete has had the biggest impact on your career?
Ian Thorpe was the reason I started swimming competitively when I was eight years old, so I'd have to say he would be my biggest influence as an elite athlete.
To say you've overcome adversity to get to Rio is an understatement - how have your health scares influenced your approach to the Olympics, and life overall?
I've had a few medical issues present themselves over the last couple of years, most linked with the rhythm of my heart. The first time I was diagnosed with AF I was told by the nurse treating me that my rowing career was over, thankfully with the right medical support this wasn't the case, however that instance definitely gave me a 'take every opportunity you can' approach to life along with a stronger desire to compete on the world stage.
How did you get into fashion photography?
In 2013 I was at university studying a degree I wasn't enjoying and finding myself a bit lost in life. At the time, I enjoyed the concept of Instagram and editing photos so bought myself a camera and started working as a freelance photographer. After working with a few individuals on side projects, I found fashion photography to be a tasteful and creative way of expressing myself artistically which led me to pursuing it further. Unfortunately, I've not been able to pursue it completely due to the sporting commitments but will aim to pursue it further when my rowing career comes to an end.
What are your goals beyond Rio?
Beyond Rio I plan on returning back to Australia to have a bit of downtime with family and friends before heading back to the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra to continue the rowing, with the hope of competing at Tokyo 2020.