Exclusive interview with young and dynamic Zimbabwean Olympian, Micheen “Mouse” Thornycroft. Mouse as she is fondly known by those close to her, represented Zimbabwe in rowing at the 2012 London Olympics. Micheen talks to SSN about sport, her passion for teaching and the Olympics, London 2012 and Rio 2016.
SSN: Who is Micheen? And how did the nickname Mouse come to be?
Micheen: I am a typical farm-grown Zim kid who loves horizons, making a plan, bare feet, freedom and exploring. I love to train especially with a team, and enjoy pushing my limits and discovering what lies beyond. I live to achieve my many goals, and to make the most of every opportunity that the world throws at me. The story about how I got my nickname is actually kind of lame, I have tried to come up with a better one but failed, so here goes . . . My parents would shorten Micheen to “Michs,” which became “Mixy-Mouse,” and then “Mouse” stuck, and now that seems more like my name than Micheen (which often gets mispronounced as “Machine”).
SSN: More on your schooling?
Micheen: My mum home-schooled me for Grade One, then I went to Springvale and on to Peterhouse Girl’s College. I did a BSc at Rhodes, with my undergraduate majors being Human Kinetics and Ergonomics, and Ichthyology and Fisheries studies. I did my Honours in Ichthyology and Fisheries studies, and then went on to do a Postgraduate in Teaching at the University of Johannesburg.
SSN: What are your earliest sporting memories?
Micheen: I think it would be playing cricket with my brother and sister behind our cottage at home. My brother was probably only just walking, but would always insist on playing which would only last until he was bowled out, and then the game would be over. Ha ha!
SSN: Peterhouse Girl’s is well-known as a good sporting school, is rowing the reason you went there?
Micheen: I did not even know that the sport of rowing existed when making my choice for high school. I went there because Peterhouse is a great school all-round. Most of my friends from Springvale were going there, and my sister was already there, so it was an easy choice. I think they (Peterhouse) have a good balance between sport and academics as they have so much time being a boarding school, and there is not really anything else to get distracted with such as broadband, DSTV or parties.
SSN: Who were your sporting heroes as a young girl?
Micheen: We never really watched TV much as kids and so I wasn’t exposed to big sporting legends. My heroes were always kids at school that were better than me at sport. Tennis was my favourite sport initially and so Kirsty Querl was who I looked up to in Senior School. She always kept her cool on the court, and she had such good sportsmanship. Geraldine Raynor and Sarah Blythe-wood were my two other heroes, as they were the kind of kids which every school has, who just seemed to be excellent at every sport! I wanted to be like them!
SSN: What was your greatest sporting achievement at school?
Micheen: I think it was winning my first rowing race at school, it was more a feeling of relief than anything else as I had made it to the finish line without falling into the water! Our coach Rachel had this theory that the best way to learn is to be thrown in the deep end, and so everyone had to race in a single scull in their first regatta, even if they had never been in that boat before. And believe me those boats are very narrow and easy to capsize!
SSN: And your worst sporting memories?
Micheen: Cross country training in the slippery red mud, and freezing early morning swimming training.
SSN: What other sports did you play and to what standard?
Micheen: I played hockey, squash and tennis in the first teams, provincial tennis, and was in the swimming team. I did athletics and cross country for my house (Eland) at school but I was not good enough to be in the school team.