Moe Sbihi: an Austrian idyll 

Moe Sbihi’s glittering career includes a gold medal in the coxless fours at the Rio 2016 Olympic games and two bronze medals in the eight at London 2012 and Tokyo 2020, where he was one of Team GB’s flag-bearers. We talked to him about his love for a beautiful and remote Austrian lake

As part of the British rowing team, I’ve been all over the world, sometimes going back to the same places over and over again: training camps in Portugal and Spain, or regatta fixtures in Lucerne, but there is one place that eclipses the lot and that is Silvretta in Austria, a man-made lake in the Austrian Alps in the shadows of Piz Buin Mountain. 

Beautiful view of Lake Silvretta at the mountain pass in Vorarlberg

The lake is 2,000 metres long and it’s 2,000 metres above sea level. It’s used to generate hydroelectricity and at one end there is a dam that was built by prisoners of war in the 1940s. I’ve been going there for years. When I first went, we stayed in very basic huts down in the foothills; the kind of things you might stay in on an Alpine camping trip. But over the last few years, we’ve started to stay in the Hotel Piz Buin. It’s nothing special, but they serve traditional Austrian cooking, which is perfect hearty food for a cold day out in the mountains.  

The weather is changeable. We went there one August and it rained from the first day to the last. Every single day. We barely got dry in the huts. But when it’s glorious, it’s really glorious: snow-capped mountains, fluorescent blue water and the brightest blue sky. In those conditions there’s nothing like the glory of being out on that water.  

Sometimes, after we’ve rowed, we hike up the mountain for 360-degree views of the lake below and the mountain range, rewarding ourselves at the end of the vertical climb with hot chocolate at an Alpine hut. And the stargazing at night is incredible. Once all the hotels have closed for the night, it’s pitch black, and you get a beautiful view of the Milky Way.  

In many ways it’s odd place for an elite training camp. There’s not a boat club. There’s no gym. But it’s an incredibly special place for British rowers. It’s the place where we go six weeks before a World Championship or the Olympics, and gold medals are essentially won there. And it’s amazing knowing that Steve Redgrave, Matt Pinsent and James Cracknell all rowed on that lake and that doing so is a tradition that has become part of British Olympic history.

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