December 22 – Tom Aggar (pictured), the reigning Paralympic and world champion in the ASM single scull class, has claimed that he is thriving on the pressure as the build-up to London 2012 continues and warned his rivals that he is getting better all the time.
The muscular 6ft 3in Aggar is a former rugby union player who was involved in Saracens youth development squad and played second-row for Warwick University 1st XV before a severe slip and fall onto a concrete path left him with a T4 spinal injury, paralysing his legs.
Following the accident, Aggar took up rowing in 2006 at the Aspire National Training Centre in Stanmore as a way to keep fit and has not looked back since.
The 25-year-old won his first World Championship crown in 2007 before destroying the rest of the field in Beijing in 2008 to claim Paralympic gold as the sport made its debut in the Games.
It has proved another remarkable year for Aggar as he won the ASM single scull World title in August to become world champion for a second time.
The year also saw Aggar lower his world best time over 2,000 metres to 4min 51.48sec and claim notable victories at the Varese International Regatta and the Munich World Cup.
And Aggar - who last week was awarded World Rowing’s Adaptive Crew of the Year award by rowing’s international governing body FISA - holds a phenomenal record of never having been beaten in the event.
But the London Paralympics remain the main focus for Aggar and the potential Paralympic superstar admitted that he is already preparing for the Games with just under 1,000 days until the opening ceremony takes place on August 29,2012.
Aggar said: "London 2012 is massive.
"We’ve got a World Championships every year in between the Paralympics but they are really just the stepping stones to get to 2012 so it’s definitely in the back of everyone’s mind and we’ll continue to base our training around that fact."
As an unbeaten Paralympic gold medallist and two-time world champion, Aggar is aware that he will be widely tipped to win gold by the British media but revealed that his greatest pressure could come from within.
He said: "There will be a lot of pressure and there will be a lot of attention on me before 2012 but I think I put quite a lot of pressure on myself to perform.
"I set high standards for myself in training and in competition so I just have to try to put those outside pressures to one side and really focus on getting to 2012 in the best possible shape and being the fastest that I can be and hopefully, if I can do that, the outcome will be good.”
Ominously for Aggar’s rivals, the British rower revealed that he is in fantastic shape heading in to the New Year.
He said: "My own form is really good right now.
"I'm producing great times and getting stronger and fitter everyday.
"I’ve still got some improvements to make for sure but I’m feeling very confident."
Aggar claimed his experiences of the Beijing 2008 Paralympics were amazing and admitted that the London 2012 Games will have a lot to live up to.
However, Aggar feels that London will be able to offer a different dimension to the Olympic and Paralympic Games that Beijing could not.
Aggar said: "China will be hard to match because of the sheer scale of it combine with the amount of money they spent on the Games but I think for London, the cultural aspect of the city will really shine through more than it did in Beijing.
"London is such a multicultural city and I am sure the 2012 Olympics and the Paralympics will bring everyone together for a fantastic experience."
Aggar has visited the venue where the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic rowing will take place on Dorney Lake in Eton and said that the setting already has him excited about competing at the Games.
He said: "I’ve been to Dorney Lake in Eton a few times before; not for any length of time but we all know where the rowing is going to be and that’s always in the back of my mind.
"Dorney Lake is a fantastic venue.
"It's world renown so it’s a great facility for rowing and obviously with the amazing venues they are building in East London in Stratford, I’m sure it’s all going to come together and combine really well to create an inspiring Games."
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