27 July, 2016

The Road to Rio: An Interview with Olympian and HK Girl, Melanie Wilson

27 July, 2016

Hong Kong raised Melanie Wilson on competing this summer at the Rio Olympics!


When we heard that one of our own was competing at the Olympics, we knew we had to grab the chance to chat with her as we’re all about supporting Hong Kongers and #girlpower at Sassy HQ! Melanie Wilson spent most of her childhood in the 852 and then eventually moved to the UK for school. She is now gearing up and training for the Rio Olympics as she represents Great Britain in the Women’s 8 Rowing Team.

Sharing from Germany where she and her team are currently training, she dishes on what she misses the most about Hong Kong, how she was didn’t plan on competing professionally in this sport, and what she’s learned from all the training through the years.

olympic rower melanie wilson

Thank you so much for taking time to chat with us! Tell us a bit about yourself.

No worries. I’m definitely a Hong Kong kid (barring a few years in Japan when I was very young), I lived and went to school in HK until I was 18. Growing up, I attended the Peak School, and then went to Island School, before moving to the UK for university. I’ve been in the UK since, studying, working and rowing. Last summer, I qualified as a doctor, and having taken this year out of medicine for the Rio Games, I intend to start work in London in November.

What’s the one thing you miss the most about Hong Kong when you’re away?

Too many things. Hi-C Lemon Tea, pot noodles with a fried egg on the beach, dim sum, being able to be in the middle of the buzzing city one moment, and then out in Shek O the next and of course, my friends.

When did you get into rowing? What inspired you to compete in this sport?

Actually, I got into rowing quite late, when I was 23 and had just moved to London to study a masters. I did a couple of months rowing at school out of Middle Island, and really enjoyed it but I was more into swimming and water polo.

While in London, I thought I’d give it another go, and was lucky enough to join a great club. The coach there saw something in me, and pushed me quite hard to take the sport more seriously than I had intended. It paid off and I fell in love with rowing. The club I trained at was in West London, and the peace of being out on the river in the early morning, right before the city was due to wake up, will always be one of my favourite things about rowing.

olympian rowing team

Congratulations on competing at Rio! Can you tell us about your road to the Olympics?

Thank you! It’s been complicated. I decided I wanted to retrain as a doctor relatively late, right about the time I got onto the British Team, so it has been a bit of a juggling act. Fortunately my University allowed me to take time out before the London Olympics, and have helped again this year. It’s tough because it isn’t a case of once you’re on the team that you feel relatively safe. There is a brutal trialling regime every year, and out of about 30 women training full time, only 12 end up being selected.

Do you have any rituals before a race? After a race?

I was told early on that this isn’t a good idea! I do wear a necklace that my Mum gave me. I was told it is a Saint Christopher pendant that’s meant to protect you when you’re travelling, but it is actually just a little angel. Other than that not really. Spare socks. At my first international race, I had my socks in my pocket and managed to flush them down the toilet!

What do the Olympics mean to you?

Our sport runs in four year cycles based around the Olympics, so this really is the pinnacle. To me it partly means an opportunity to share what I’ve been doing with friends and family. It is also about being able to stand up and test yourself against the best in the world. It feels very pure and simple in a sometimes complicated world, and an incredible privilege.

olympic rowing team

If you could compete in another sport at the Olympics, what would it be? Are there any other sports you’re interested in besides rowing?

Pole Vault! Perhaps because it looks like one of the least likely things I could ever do. I love watching them soar through the air.

We’ve always wondered what an Olympian workout entails. What does your training schedule look like?

It’s a pretty full time job. We normally get one day off every other week. Other than that it is 2-3 training sessions a day, a variety of rowing on the water, on a rowing machine, and lifting weights. We also spend some time cycling. We’re away on training camps for up to five months of every year.

We all have those days where we feel exhausted and getting to the gym is a challenge… What motivates you to train even on those days?

It’s not that hard when you have a whole team of people expecting you to turn up. But in the years when I was training on my own, I would make sure I focused on small goals. Getting out of bed at 5am because you hope to go to the Olympics in 3 years time is too overwhelming, but if you know you have something to aim for in a week or two, you’re much more likely to appreciate how important that session is.

olympic rower melanie wilson

Tell us a bit about how you stay healthy and eat well while training. Do you have a cheat day, and if so, what’s your favourite thing to indulge in?

I grew up in a family that always ate healthily, so most things are second nature. When we’re in a hard training period, like now, it is four big meals a day. I have become more aware of what I am eating, for example making sure I eat enough protein when we’re lifting weights, but in general it is just healthy and colourful food. I’m not sure about a cheat day, but I love melted cheese, and peanut butter on toast.

What skills have you gained from rowing that you could apply/use in everyday life?

There are loads. It took me a while to appreciate it, as I felt as though my life was ‘on hold’ until I stopped rowing, but now I can really see how much the experience is going to help in the future. I think big companies are starting to realise it to, and there has been a bit of a recruitment drive to get athletes into business. I am starting work as a doctor, so I think dealing with a team, and learning how to get the most out of yourself and those around you is going to help.

Which other female athletes do you admire most/inspire you?

Mainly my team mates. We used to have a cox on the team, and although as a cox you aren’t physically an athlete, she was in every other way, and more than anyone else I know. She never left a stone unturned in anything she applied herself to. I still go to her for advice, and faced with a tough decision, I’ll often think ‘what would Caroline do?’ She teaches children with special educational needs now, and turns her drive to that. The kids are surpassing expectations by a mile and it is no surprise to me.


For more info and the schedule for Rowing at the Olympics 2016, see here

All of us at Sassy HQ wish Melanie and her team the best of luck at the Rio Olympics!
We will be cheering for you!

Photo #5 sourced via www.britishrowing.org

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top
We’ve teamed up with Vancouver skincare brand Harlow for a great giveaway. We have two gift baskets crammed with its all-natural, thoughtfully + aesthetically designed products for one lucky reader to win (one each for you and a friend). ⠀
To enter:⠀
♥ 1. Tag the person you would share your prize with below.⠀
♥ 2. Follow @harlowskincohk ♥ 3. Follow @sassyhongkong ⠀
The competition closes on 4 July, so hurry! But if you miss out on this prize, don’t worry, Sassy readers can pick up a complimentary skin vial sampler at the Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong (limited to one per person, while stocks last). We recommend its brand new Flora toner, which is perfect for combating the HK humidity and the drying effects of constant air conditioning. ⠀
*This post is brought to you in Partnership with Harlow*⠀
#harlowskincohk #floraharlow ⠀
Ts&Cs apply. https://www.sassyhongkong.com/terms-conditions-harlow-instagram-giveaway/⠀
🧗‍♀️ If you’re looking to stay active but don’t love the idea of a traditional workout, these fun classes will be a game changer.

Check out *11 Workouts For People Who Hate To Work Out* on #sassyhongkong now.


Happy #NegroniWeek2019 Hong Kong. Kicking off today, and running until Sunday, 30 June, the international charity event showcases the classic cocktail, all while raising money for international charities across the globe.

Head to #sassyhongkong now to read *Where To Drink In Hong Kong For Negroni Week 2019*  for all the information you need on what to drink and which charities are being supported 🙌🏻 Link in bio and what’s on highlights.

#NegroniWeek2019 #hongkongcocktails
If you're looking for spices, chargrilled meats, mezzes and more? We've updated *The Best Middle Eastern Restaurants In Hong Kong* on #sassyhongkong. 

#sassytastes #doubledippers


Who's heading to the beach today? 🏖

#sassyloves the summer vibes of HK illustrator @ana.duje

#sosassy #sassysummer


Want to learn all about coffee from the experts? Enter our giveaway for your chance to win a coffee tasting masterclass with @noccoffeeco! The class will cover everything from coffee sourcing, roasting and tasting, to learning all about single origin coffees and finding your perfect brew. And you’ll even be able to take home some of NOC’s signature beans to make your own perfect cuppa after the class. ☕️

Sound good to you? Enter simply by following three easy steps - 
♥ 1. Follow @noccoffeeco
♥ 2. Follow @sassyhongkong
♥ 3. Tag the friend that you’d take with you in this post! 

All entries must be submitted by Friday, 5 July 2019. Ts&Cs apply.

*This post is brought to you in partnership with NOC Coffee Co.*⁣

🏖 Planning a beach day for this weekend? Make sure you've read *The Best Beachside Restaurants And Bars In Hong Kong* updated now on #sassyhongkong. 

Discovery Bay to Shek O we’ve rounded up the best eateries on Hong Kong’s shorelines. 


Happy Pride Month Hong Kong 🏳️‍🌈. Check out *LGBTQI+ Books You Should Read This Pride Month* on #sassyhongkong and our stories. 

#loveislove #hkpride #lgbthongkong