Friday, September 7, 2012

The 2012 RoRys, Part III: The Elite Level


Today marks the final day of the 2012 RoRys, and the time to celebrate the best performances and most outstanding athletes on the international rowing circuit in an Olympic year. It was a fantastic Olympic Rowing Regatta–indeed, given the amount of history that was made and records that were broken, it may have been the best one to date. And so, without further ado, we present to you the 2012 RoRy winners at the elite level:

RoRy for 'Programme' of the Year
Great Britain, Jurgen Grobler, David Tanner
Last year's winners, and deserving winners in 2012, the home team at the London Olympics performed better than any GB Olympic Rowing Team in history, collecting nine medals in total, four of them gold. With the likes of Heather Stanning and Helen Glover in the women's pair, Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins in the double, an excellent lightweight program (indeed, all GB lightweight boats scored silver or better at Eton Dorney), and a heavyweight showdown in the men's four that was one for the ages, GB Rowing certainly earned its place atop the podium for program of the year in London.

RoRy for Efficiency
New Zealand, Dick Tonks 
The Kiwi rowing team absolutely dominated the small boats, winning gold in the men's single, men's double, and men's pair, with bronze in the women's pair and men's lightweight double, a fourth place finish in the women's single, and fifth in the women's double. What does all this mean? Of the 11 crews that New Zealand brought to the Olympic Games, five of them medaled, and two of them set new Olympic best times (one of which was also a world best time).

RoRy for Coach of the Year
Deutscher Ruderverband, Hartmut Buschbacher 
While the focus internationally was on the undefeated German men's eight, the German rowing federation also won the men's quad–this may be the first time that one country has won both of the 'big' boats at a single Olympic Rowing Regatta. Guiding a crew from an undefeated world championship circuit to an Olympic victory is no small feat–not only did the Deutschlandachter accomplish this, they did it in rough conditions, and against what was the tightest field ever in a men's eight final at the Olympic Games, with all six crews separated by just 3.12 seconds as they crossed the line (at the Games in Los Angeles in 1932, a four boat final had a spread of 3.2 seconds on the course in Long Beach). Germany also took silver in the women's quad.

RoRy for Race of the Year
The men's double final at Eton Dorney
There are so many good ones that choosing a single race seems almost impossible, but, in the end, there can be only one. New Zealand's Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan had already set a new Olympic best time earlier in the week, but in the final, they were in sixth place through the 500m mark. However, this seems to where they are most comfortable. By the 1000m mark, the Kiwi duo had moved into fifth, but they were still only in fourth place crossing 1500 meters–surely, they had left it too late. Or not. They unleashed what was the most intense, world-beating sprint in three years of come-from-behind victories at the elite level, and rowed down the Argentines, Slovenians, and Italians en route to gold.

Breakthrough Performance of the Year
The South African Lightweight Men's Four
The final of the lightweight men's four at the Olympics was, as you might imagine, a star-studded event, with the home team looking very strong throughout, and perennial gold medal contender Eskild Ebbesen in the stroke seat of yet another potent Danish combination, not to mention the 2011 world champions from Australia. The RSA crew, however, bided their time, and moved at exactly the right moment, as the Danes began to fade from their early position at the top of the field. Great Britain did all they could to take home the gold for the home crowd, but in the end, it was Lawrence Ndlovu, John Smith, Matthew Brittain, and James Thompson of South Africa who edged into the lead, winning the first-ever gold medal for South African rowing at the Olympic Games.

RoRys for Athletes of the Year
Female Athlete of the Year: Kim Crow, Australia
Kim Crow was, quite possibly, the best athlete on the water at Eton Dorney. Period. She was the only athlete to double up, racing in both the women's single and women's double, having qualified the women's single at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne. And, not only did she take a silver in the women's double, she took home a second medal–this time bronze–in the women's single, finishing ahead of four time Olympic medalist (and double Olympic champion) Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus. A phenomenal performance from a phenomenal athlete.

Male Athlete of the Year: Mahé Drysdale, New Zealand
Yes, we know we're picking two single scullers, but the fact is, when you race to a bronze in Beijing despite illness, and then get hit by a car just weeks before the Olympic final in London, and still win gold this time, well, you deserve it. Drysdale was five times world champion before winning his first Olympic gold, and this year he faced one of his toughest challenges yet, as he was unable to row following the cycling accident (which took place in Munich prior to the World Cup there), and instead trained in other ways to keep fit (indeed, Mahé spends a great deal of time cycling as cross-training for rowing, and was on a training ride when the accident occurred). In the final, however, he left no doubt, leading throughout the final 1500 meters and building his advantage through the line.

Congratulations to all the 2012 RoRy winners on a fantastic year, and we, as fans and supporters of rowing, thank you for all that you do! We're looking forward to seeing much more from all of you in the future!

-RR

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