Being an Olympian I’ve learnt a thing or two about dealing with pain; emotional and physical. Aside from the losses and setbacks, performance environments require sacrificing life events and occasions that would normally be prioritised above all else. I’ve been through the mill and have come out the other side rewarded with three lovely gold medals and some incredible memories.

The drive to do all this stems, I believe, from my childhood.  My parents worked hard and set the example of what was needed in life to build security for the family. My parents’ love was deep and passionate as everything they did was with my sister and myself at the centre.  At times it didn’t feel like this as we weren’t treated like children, but as young people.  We were taught the adult values of tolerance, respect, play and hard work.  

The underlying tone was to grow up.  I’m sure this is relative, my lackadaisical start in life was a major concern of what would become of the boy Hodge. I spent much of my youth fudging through life, until I found rowing.  Soon after I started rowing, I realised I’d found something as a passion inside of me grew. 

I found a fight within me, a purpose, and a cause to excise my floundering past.  I found direction, vision, teamwork, and personal desire to be better.  I found the tool that would help me grow up.  From this moment I was able prove myself to my parents, through my development in the sport and positive consequences that developed. 

My proudest moment was the moment I felt I could exist without the umbilical cord to my parents because of the path I’d chosen.  From this moment I was able to achieve and fulfil my potential. 

I had a feeling my father was probably going to die early due to the lifestyle of most merchant mariners at the time, too much drinking and smoking.  Even though he stopped both for over 30 or so years, the seeds of pancreatic cancer had been sown.  When it finally surfaced it attacked with ferocity.  He was given 3 to 6 months but died within two and a half.  This was between the middle of Sept 2020 and the end of November.  Covid was on the rise, the doctors and we as a family were always two steps behind his care.  This left him in pain and away from home where he wanted to be.

He died in pain. He died without his family.  I’m angry with this because I was unable to work hard at the solution, I was trapped into tolerating doctors’ opinions, and respecting family decisions.  I feel that I failed in a tough situation.  

I believe he’d forgive me.  We all have moments of pain, and they pass.  Sometimes we can do something about it, sometimes we can’t.  My career taught me that it’s better to try and fail than to never try, it’s the best way to learn.  Unfortunately, we've only got one shot at this, but the rule still applies.

I'm left with a sense of anger, which I don't expect to disappear, I don’t think I want it to, it’s the last gift from Dad.  These emotions keep me fighting, keep me pushing on to give my family security, and to build an environment where I hope to see my sons pride when they realise, they’re no longer dependant on us, their mum and dad; free to make the decisions that will see them fight for what they feel will get the best from them.

Seeing dad lying on the hospice bed moments after passing was peaceful, it was an expected natural moment.  In simple terms my emotion was that of the final step on a mountain climb, or maybe journey to the end of a deep dark cavern. This was the inevitable end of a big journey.  It doesn’t matter if it was a success or not, you take what you can and you start the journey to normal life, with the memory of events.

I’ve processed a lot since dad died over a year ago.  I’ve come to terms with what Dad’s death has given me.  Acknowledging his death around the decisions I make, and how that affected me.  Balancing the extremities of life and between his death and feeling trapped by my three young (amazing) boys; unable to think about Dad at all and carving out moments for myself to still feel the anger, still feel the reality of what happened.

So where am I now? I’ve not lost anything from my father dying, I still hear his voice, his guidance, I can see his smiles.  But because he made me the man I am, I can look forward and I continue to grow up.  

Author: Andrew Triggs Hodge

Andy is a three time triple Olympic champion and four time world champion. In a British coxless four in 2012 he set a world's best time which still stood as of 2021. He was actively competing in international rowing from 2002 until his retirement in 2016 after the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, gathering an impressive collection of championship titles and awards throughout his career. He received an OBE in the new year's honours list of 2017 for services to rowing and is Director of Corporate Engagement for London Youth Rowing, a charity committed to increasing access to rowing as a sport.