There are few athletes that have had such a distinguished career as Lieutenant Pete Reed OBE. Having discovered a propensity for rowing aboard HMS Exeter as a young Officer, Reed has gone on to achieve a career that others can only dream of.

Not only is Pete a current Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, but a winner of three Olympic gold medals for rowing. Winning his first gold in Bejing in 2008, Reed has subsequently gone on to win gold in both London 2012 and Rio 2016, as well as eight World Championship medals.

Despite reaching the giddy heights of Olympic glory, Pete Reed remains committed to doing his duty for the Royal Navy. He has recently been doing the rounds at NAVYfit events, offering his support and advice to service people.

We had the chance to speak with Lieutenant Pete Reed OBE at the HMS Temeraire Event in June.

Why are you here supporting the NAVYfit day at HMS Royal Temeraire?

“So, I’m one of the longest standing elite athletes that the Royal Navy has had. I’m very proud of that and very grateful for that as well. For the last twelve years, I’ve been competing in rowing at an Olympic level and it’s absolutely right and proper as a serving lieutenant in the Royal Navy, that I come and support the NAVYfit day.

NAVYfit is the outward facing showcase of physical development. I wanted to be here to learn, to help, to show empathy with people who are coming here for certain things. I understand the need for rehabilitation, mental and physical health and the importance of sport and endurance training.”

 

What do you think that you learned in the Royal Navy that helped you to achieve such great successes at the Olympics in Beijing, London and Rio?

“It’s a great question and the easiest one in the world to answer. I simply wouldn’t have any of the characteristics that a top line sportsman needs if I hadn’t joined the Royal Navy.

The crucial skills you learn when you’re under training are determination and teamwork. It doesn’t really matter who I’ve seen go through the rowing system, the people who succeed are amazing team players and they are incredibly determined.

On top of all that, the discipline side of things. Being organised and having the work ethic that is instilled by the armed forces is absolutely crucial for sport.

I didn’t have those skills and now I use them every day and I practice them every day. Hopefully, one day, when I come back into the fleet, I will be able to use them and put them back into the Royal Navy by helping people with their leadership and team-building skills.”

 

Is the endurance you have in order to row something inherently inbuilt or something partially constructed by your time in the Royal Navy?

“My physical endurance is high. I have enormous lungs which I was tested for ten years ago. But we all know you don’t need massive lungs for endurance, it’s a mental game. You need mental toughness and mental stamina. You need to be the kind of character that can overcome your challenges.

If you’re the sort of person that buckles, you’re probably not in the armed forces. I think my training in the armed forces helped me become a better endurance athlete. The mental stamina you need is more than half the battle and as it happens; I’m tall, big and heavy and I have big lungs- so that helps give you numbers when the going gets tough.”

It’s the tenth birthday of The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC). Over the past ten years, we’ve tried to help a huge number of sailors, marines, veterans and their families. As a serviceman yourself, how important is it to know that there are groups like RNRMC helping support the naval community?

“Firstly, happy birthday! Ten years of the work you’ve been doing is amazing. I also saw that it’s been £51 million pounds that have been spread out about to sailors and their families and marines. 

I think it’s really important. It was maybe overlooked when I joined, the crucial role that the families play in how ‘fit to fight’ a sailor or a marine is.

To have support from somebody that the families can call, so that families aren’t isolated and it’s not this secret thing you don’t have access to, is so important. It’s all inclusive now and the benefit of that is that you keep the sailors and marines on-side all the time.

The benefits are enormous, and of course, there are very tragic circumstances in which the charities will be used with families and it’s wholly necessary. Having that lifeline and support available is extremely reassuring to a serving naval officer and a marine that is going to be fighting on the front line knowing that their families will be taken care of emotionally and helped through the most troubling time would be of extreme confidence for them. It’s really important.”

 

How’s training for the 2020 Olympics going? Are you going to bring home the gold?!

“Okay! I don’t want this to sound too arrogant, but I wouldn’t bet against me! But the thing is, it’s just so hard to do. I’ve got confidence because I’ve done it before, I know I’m the kind of character that can. Okay, I’m older now and the team is changing and you never know what’s going to happen but I feel motivated just like I did when I went for my first gold medal.


We managed to catch a glimpse of all three of Reed's Olympic gold medals

I’m full of enthusiasm for the sport, I love what I do and I’m putting all my time and energy into being a better athlete and making the boat move faster. I’ve got the Royal Navy’s support to do that and they’ve got my back and it takes the worry of my career out of the picture, so I can simplify my life.

I feel like a focussed athlete just as I should be and I couldn’t do it without the Royal Navy. I’m excited, so why not? It’s going to be a good game.”

 

What’s the plan after 2020? Are you going to head back to the Navy or get more involved in naval charities?

“I think I’ll definitely retire from rowing. I’ll be 40 (by 2020) and doing it at 44 (in 2024) is probably a little bit too much.  I love the sport and will miss it, so I will carry on in the sport but from an organisational role and a mentoring role within sport.

A career in the Royal Navy; I can’t wait to get stuck in, I want to have a proper career. I know that my career has been affected by four Olympiads of rowing but now I need to have an honest discussion with my appointer and see what the options are. I want to be able to push my career and really make a difference. I want to contribute to the navy and to give back by using the skills I’ve learnt over the last 12 years. No doubt it’ll be in mentoring, welfare and personnel. I think I’d be very good at some jobs and perhaps not at others. I’m excited about life, I’ll be 40 and it’ll feel like I’m going into the world for the first time after rowing. There are plenty of options so it’s a really exciting time.”

We would like to thank Pete for taking the time to speak with us, we wish him well in his training for the upcoming Olympics and we value his ongoing support!