Much was made of the “gamesmakers” at the Olympics, the volunteers who did anything and everything to ensure the event went smoothly. I’ve seen that enthusiasm first hand over the last three days at the second of this year’s
three regattas at the World Rowing Cup.
Organisers would have hoped that the first such event in Britain for eight years, and on the weekend closest to the longest day, might have brought still and warm conditions. Instead, it was more like March, with strong winds and lanes forced to be re-drawn for both Saturday’s semi finals and Sunday’s finals. None of this, though, dented the enthusiasm of the black polo shirted volunteers.
Many came wearing the grey trainers with red laces that were used at the Olympics, but they all brought a multitude of skills. Some, handily, spoke several languages, useful when nations as diverse as Brazil, China and Azerbajan are competing.
The genuine atmosphere extended onto the water too. Among the GB team of nearly 80 rowers I encountered no airs or graces from anyone, whether it was Sam Scrimgeour and Mark Aldred, who, competing in their first World Cup, won a gold in the lightweight Men’s Pair, or Andy Triggs-Hodge, twice an Olympic champion.
His assessment of Friday’s effort in qualifying by the Men’s Eight was frank. “We really had our heads down. The rate was wrong, and we were too crabby” he told me. Peter Reed, also a gold medallist in Beijing and London, was equally up front. “No-one likes crossing the line in less than first place. The Poles and the French are too good to under estimate them, and if we’re going to win the nicest colour medal we’re going to have to rally and put in a good performance.”
Their win in Sunday’s blustery finale was, you might say, timed to perfection, only hitting the front ahead of Poland within the last 100 metres. The gold maintained Reed’s record of winning every final he had rowed in at a FISA goverened event staged in the UK.
“I’m so pleased we won because I don’t think I’ll get another international event in front of a home crowd in my career” he said. “The crowd really made it a special occasion and this means more because we were so bad on Friday. Rowing does have more ups and downs than people think, and it was very mature for some of the younger guys to come out and show that courage in a final.”
Sunday’s finals delivered nine medals in all, including a silver for the Chambers brothers, Richard and Peter, in the lightweight Men’s Double Sculls. Both their 11 stone frames were exhausted at the finish, when Richard was physically sick.
He did a brief interview for BBC TV while his brother was recovering sufficiently to recieve his medal. Both then showed more of the courage Peter Reed spoke of, returning to the media area before it was clear within seconds that their health was clearly more important and they understandably bailed out.
In concept rowing is a simple sport, with boats racing each other over a straight course of 2000 metres. Depending on the size of crew, their weight and the conditions, races take between five and a half and eight minutes.
It can be a slow burner in terms of tension but don’t be decieved by the intensity. Those at the top level are supremely fit, and they’re good people too – which probably accounts for the hundreds of volunteers who turn up to watch and help run the events they compete in.
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