Caleb Antill had to fight to remain competitive in the sport of rowing, and now that he is close to reaching the summit he is not about to walk away.
He was a member of the Australian quadruple sculls combination – with fellow Canberra-based rowers Luke Letcher, Jack Cleary and Cameron Girdlestone – that won bronze at the Tokyo Olympics.
Back home in Canberra following two weeks of quarantine in Sydney, Caleb says he has had plenty of time to reflect on the five-year preparation leading to Tokyo.
“What it highlighted was just how finite it turned out to be,” he says. “Five years of hard work in the end came down to one race.”
That race, combined with gold medals to Australian crews in the men’s and women’s fours, followed by bronze in the women’s quadruple sculls, capped off a remarkable opening day of rowing finals in Tokyo.
“We didn’t know how we would go against the other crews,” says Caleb. “We hadn’t raced internationally together before the Tokyo Olympics. It was my first Olympics. We had an awesome crew with great camaraderie. It was the most enjoyable campaign I’ve ever had.”
It was a far cry from the time he struggling to make an impact after graduating from Canberra Grammar School. He started in the sport coxing his mother’s crew before representing Grammar in the first eight in years 11 and 12.
But after finishing last in the under-21 trials in 2015, Caleb could have been forgiven for reassessing his ambitions. But if anything, it inspired him to push harder, culminating six years later with bronze at the Tokyo Olympics.
After all that effort he isn’t about to walk away from the sport anytime soon.
“I’m now inspired to keep going to the Paris Olympics,” he says.
By which time Caleb will be 29 years of age.
He says once the programs get back into full swing it will be a return to the drawing board, but he plans to stay away from the boat for a few months.
Instead, while keeping fit in the home gym in his garage, he says his focus is to complete his Bachelor of Science Degree at the ANU by the end 2021. This comes on top of his already completed Bachelor of Commerce Degree.
Caleb says his aim is to get some normality back into his life, which won’t be easy given the impact his performance has had on his family, friends and wider rowing community in Canberra.