Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Op-Ed from the RR Staff: U23 Worlds 2011 – What USRowing Can Take from Amsterdam

The US U23 squad had a very successful regatta over the weekend, with fast conditions paving the way for a huge number of new world best times on the Bosbaan. As has come to be expected, the women's squad was both deep and strong, with the pair of Grace Luczak (bronze medalist in Karapiro) and Felice Mueller (gold medal and world best time from last year's U23 World Championships) winning and breaking last year's record by roughly nine seconds, then jumping into the eight and taking bronze. The men's team also had several strong performances, and came away with two medals of their own, in the lightweight single and the eight. Andrew Campbell, who took bronze in the LM1x (backing up a bronze in the M1x at last year's Junior World Championships), is making quite a name for himself on the lightweight circuit. And, yet again, Mike Teti has coached a record-breaking eight that took home the gold from a World Championship regatta.

Let's talk about that last point a little.

There's no need to explain who Mike Teti is. He's one of the winningest coaches in the history of the sport at the international level, and wherever he has gone, success has followed. Yet, even now, there are those who will want to say that he is not a technical coach. While the next statement lacks nuance, I'm very comfortable in saying that these people are flat-out wrong.

You cannot coach the fastest men's eight in the history of the Olympic Games without being a solid technical as well as physiological coach, nor can you coach the second fastest IRA champion varsity eight in history without knowing both sides of the coin. And now, he can add 'fastest eight in the history of the (albeit short-lived) U23 World Championships' to his resume as well. Given all this, it's easy to see why there are rumors circulating that Teti may have a hand in coaching the men's eight for the 2012 Olympic Games.

The fact is, if Teti is at all interested in coaching the men's eight for London, USRowing should be doing everything in its power to see that he does. While Tim McLaren's new system appears to be having some success, as the depth of the men's squad has undoubtedly improved, along with the results so far this summer, the responsibilities facing McLaren going into the most important Worlds of his young tenure in the US are considerable and various. McLaren has proven that he is a world-class coach in his own right over the course of his career, but given the split nature of the men's camps, as well as Teti's apparent willingness continue to work with the US men's team, it seems only natural and appropriate that he be involved in developing and coaching the men's eight as London approaches.

This seems ever more germane given the results over the past several weeks, with the senior eight taking a very close fourth in Lucerne (yes, in lane 1, but a strong performance nonetheless, and in a field that seems, at this point, to be catching up to the Germans), and the victory in Amsterdam. If I were Tim McLaren, I would have been on the phone before they finished playing 'The Star Spangled Banner' at Bosbaan. What the US men's team needs now is to continue the momentum that they appear to be generating, following the major restructuring of the camp system. McLaren risks losing that momentum if the squad doesn't perform in Bled – something that could negate all the hard work that has gone into restructuring, as an audience impatient for results scrutinizes the decision-making of the top brass. On the flip side, if the team excels in Slovenia, the new system will be validated and continue to develop throughout the Olympic year.

What's in store? The answers await on an Alpine lake in northwestern Slovenia.

-RR

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