The distance from the River Itchen to the Olympic waters of Eton Dorney might be a relatively short one – but for James Foad it has been a long journey between the two.
The Southampton rower will represent Great Britain at London 2012 as part of the men’s eight boat, which is among the medal favourites this summer.
The Games will be 25-year-old Foad’s first ever Olympics .
It promises to be a moment that will make all the work he has put in since he first picked up an oar as a young boy at Itchen Imperial Rowing Club worthwhile.
Foad was introduced to the sport as a result of his dad, Chris – a talented rower in his own right, and the long-serving club captain at Itchen.
He was just nine when, on a holiday in America, he watched Steve Redgrave win the third of his five Olympic golds, at Atlanta in 1996.
On his return home, Foad badgered his dad to let him go out in a rowing boat.
He soon started at Itchen and took to the sport like a duck to water.
At 17, he became the youngest person to win the Junior Sculls Champion-ships for the Hants and Dorset region, and the next year was
racing for Great Britain.
Foad went on to join one of the UK’s top high performance clubs – Molesey, in Surrey – and by 2009 was part of the senior men’s squad and well on track for the Olympic Games.
He found his place in the men’s eight boat and was a member of the team that travelled to New Zealand for the 2010 World Rowing Championships.
It was to be a major moment in Foad’s career, as he helped Britain win silver, finishing just six-tenths of a second behind the reigning world champions, Germany.
The team repeated that feat at the 2011 World Championships, when they again finished second to Germany.
This season, the British squad have maintained their status among the very best.
In the World Cup series, they have won silver medals in Belgrade and Lucerne – again losing to Germany both times – as well as bronze in Munich.
The target now is to at least maintain a podium position and then push for the very top step.
Foad’s hopes are boosted by the presence of the experienced Greg Searle in the men’s eight boat.
Searle is a gold medallist from way back at Barcelona 1992 – when Foad was just five-years-old.
He also won a bronze at Atlanta, with Foad watching on from the riverbank.