Thursday, August 25, 2011

World Rowing Championships 2011 Blog: Arrival and First Impressions



The course in Bled is given to a particular kind of Alpine beauty, which lifted me up following a very long journey featuring plane/terminal changes at Paris CDG (one of the largest airports in Europe). Just as I was starting to get worried that I'd taken the wrong train to the wrong bus to catch the next plane, the Irish National Team appeared, and between the lot of us we figured out the right transportation. The regatta officials met everyone at the airport, and organized travel to the course in a very efficient manor.

Paris CDG on the way to Ljubljana (Photo: B. Kitch)
Once at the course, I had to gawk for a moment. It really is stunning. The striking verticality produced by glacial valleys is breathtaking (not to mention reminiscent of California's own Yosemite Valley -- though you'll not find any 10th century monasteries or castles there). The lake is already filled with athletes with kit from all over the world (note the rower talking about the kit's origin first and foremost), and the area around the venue is busily gearing up for the event, which begins on Sunday.

Ljubljana Airport (Photo: B. Kitch)
When I first arrived at the regatta HQ, as it were, I ran into Matt Muffleman, who is here coaching the USRowing adaptive entries from OKC, along with Margaux Jackson. Also spotted biking around the finish line: Cal women's head coach Dave O'Neill. The GB and German M8s were out on the water at the time, but I ended up catching the same bus back to the village as the GB LM2x (Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase), and the GB W4x (Melanie Wilson, Annabel Vernon, Beth Rodford, and Debbie Flood), who were very personable, and even helped me to sort out how to get around the regatta during race week -- hope to 'catch up' with all of them through the week as the racing begins. This was in keeping with the general feeling around the event this afternoon -- despite the pressure that regatta organizers, athletes and coaches are under as the Olympic qualifier regatta draws ever nearer, all were seemingly in a positive frame of mind, relaxed, helpful, and kind. I'm tempted to say something about the rowing community in general, but before I get too sappy, maybe it's just the overwhelming natural beauty of this place that has everyone smiling.

Lake Bled, Julian Alps in the Backgound (Photo: B. Kitch)
The apartment I've sorted out for the regatta is very nice. The proprietor speaks no English, but she and I can communicate well enough in German to take care of everything. I'll work on my Slovene over the course of the regatta!

More from the course as the racing gets underway.

-RR

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