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Kenrick Monk’s new career as a rower with Olympic ambition

August 18, 2013
 Kenrick Monk, Thomas Fraser-Holmes, Ryan Napoleon and Nick Frost after winning Gold in the men's 4x200m freestyle final at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Source: News Limited

Kenrick Monk, Thomas Fraser-Holmes, Ryan Napoleon and Nick Frost after winning Gold in the men’s 4x200m freestyle final at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Source: News Limited

Up until two weeks ago Kenrick Monk had never been in a boat before. Today, the dual Olympic swimmer is aiming to qualify for his third Games – this time as a rower.

It was the Queensland Academy of Sport who approached Monk to be part of their Rio Olympics rowing program. Monk, 25, has shown great promise and skill despite his complete lack of experience and is now training three times a week.

“I haven’t fallen into the water yet which is a good thing,” Monk said, laughing. “I just have a view of; why can’t I have a shot? I have always dreamt of going to another Olympics in a different sport.” Rowing has been Monk’s salvation, after he plunged into severe depression following his retirement from a decorated swimming career.

On his darkest days Monk was often in tears as he struggled without the career that saw him win world championship and Commonwealth Games gold and swim at the Beijing and London Olympics.

“You put on brave face in public but when you are in closed quarters you shrivel down to be nothing,” Monk said.

“Once you step away from the sport, there is nothing for you. There is no support after it.

“I felt lost. I was depressed. I can accept it. I can talk about it now. I have a new life, a new journey and every day I have a smile on my face.

“Rowing has put the fire back in my belly and put a spark back into my life.” Monk says his parents and – radio broadcaster Alan Jones – have helped him through the dark times.

His fiancé Bonnie has also guided him out the blackest period of his life. Bonnie encouraged Monk to form a life plan which includes him returning to school next year to finish off his high school certificate – so he can eventually try and enter the police force.

“Bonnie basically saved me in a way,” Monk said. “Without her, my parents, it could have gone pretty pear shaped.” Monk says he is changed man from the controversy-prone swimmer with a penchant for embarrassing scrapes.

Just under two years ago he told police he was hit by a P-plater – subsequently breaking two bones in his elbow – when in fact he had fallen off his skateboard. Monk still to this day feels great embarrassment for the incident and desperately wants to be remembered for something more than this.

“I am not that person, I made a mistake, it was hard going through it,” Monk said. “For me this is a new journey, it’s going to long and hard one. I really want to get out there and try and impress people – I want to give it my all.”

Monk is currently working as a swimming coach but faces a monetary dilemma and will need sponsorship if he is to keep pursuing his triple Olympic ambition.

“The financial side is the only question hovering over this venture,” Monk said. “I have to put food on the table. It is a full-time three year job to try and get on the Olympic team. I want to do it.”

“I am looking for sponsorship to support this dream.” His QAS rowing coach Alex Field said Monk is a “mature athlete” who had already shown not only physical but mental promise – he has faith he could make the Rio Olympics.

“He has a whole lot of strength and endurance power because of swimming … and he does have the ability to pick things up quite quickly in terms of technique,” Field said.

In modern history no Australian swimmer has successful switched sports at Olympic level.

“I would like to say to my kids I have been to three Olympics in two different sports,” Monk said.


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