Friday, August 31, 2012

Flickr Friday: Photos from the RRoad Trip, 2012



The 2012 RRoad Trip has come to a close, and while it included very little in the way of rowing, sometimes getting out for a trail run, hiking up a dormant volcano (or two), and sleeping under the stars is just the thing to get you ready for a new season on the water. After heading up to Seattle and camping on the Olympic Peninsula, we wound our way back down through Oregon via Bend, Crater Lake, and Klamath Falls. Crater Lake is truly one of those natural phenomena that must be seen in person to be properly appreciated–the scale is mind-blowing, and the pure azure blue of the water is unmatched in my experience. Also, at an elevation of more than 8,000 feet at the highest point, the hiking available at Crater Lake provides for some sneaky training while on vacation.

Check out the gallery of photos above for a look at the trip, and get ready for the 2012-2013 season!

Note for RR mobile readers: Apologies that the Flickr photo slideshow doesn't load in our mobile template, but here is a direct link to the gallery:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rowingrelated/sets/72157631340226348/

-Bryan

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

RRoad Trip Continues: Olympics to Olympia

Scenes from Seattle
Our 'rambles' have taken us through Portland to Seattle, via Olympia, as well as through the pines along the edge of the Olympic Peninsula. Naturally, a little exercise is necessary, getting out and stretching the legs after a few hours on the road, so we've taken advantage of our surroundings whenever possible, including heading out for a trail run in Cougar Mountain Park just outside Seattle (see lower photo above). More to come from the journey, and more on tap for RR with the 2012 RoRys on the way. If you have a nomination for consideration, get involved and get in touch via our Contact page.

I'll post a gallery of photos from the trip to the RR Flickr page this Friday.

-Bryan

Monday, August 27, 2012

VOTW: Training Camp with the GB Lightweight Men's Four



This week's video comes to us from Adam Freeman-Pask, who has put together what is an artistic training montage with the GB lightweight men's four. The video appears to have been shot during the final pre-Olympic training camp in Varese, Italy, where the crew of Peter Chambers, Rob Williams, Richard Chambers, and Chris Bartley put the finishing touches on their preparation before their silver medal performance at Eton Dorney. You can catch more of Adam Freeman-Pask's work, which we have featured here on RR in the past, on his YouTube Channel, where he, like Natalie Dell, has posted a video made up of clips from the athletes' perspective at the London 2012 Closing Ceremony.

Want to suggest the next 'Video Of The Week?' Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your suggestion via Twitter (twitter.com/rowingrelated), or get in touch via our Facebook page.

-RR

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday Edition: RRoad Trip – The Rambles of Kitch & Kasprzyk

"Show a lot of things, happening at once–to show it all would take too long"
With the intensity of the Olympic experience behind us, and all the work that went into racing it (and covering it) having taken its toll, it seemed important to get away from it all, at least for a little while. And what better way to do that than with a road trip? Steve and I have headed north from the Bay Area to Seattle, via miles and miles of beautiful coastline, evergreen forests, and dramatic mountain ranges, stopping in Portland along the way to get an impression of the city. More to come shortly, including a new Video Of The Week with the GB lightweight men's four, as well as further highlights from the trip north. Also, the 2012 RoRys are in the works, honoring the top performers, best races, and most influential people of the 2011-2012 season. 

The entries for the 2012 Paralympic Rowing Regatta have been posted to the FISA website–please follow the link for full list on the event webpage–as has a preview of the ASM1x, which will feature gold medal favorite Tom Aggar of Team GB looking to defend his title from Beijing.

-Bryan

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

RR Interview: Double Olympian David Banks of the U.S. Men's Eight

Cooling down after the heat (Photo: B. Kitch)
Following the Games in London, two-time Olympian David Banks of the 2012 U.S. men's eight was kind enough to share his thoughts on this year's team, the racing in Lucerne and Eton, and just what it means to compete at the Olympics. Having begun his rowing career at Stanford, Banks has been involved with the U.S. national team since 2008, where he has consistently been lauded by his peers as the ideal teammate–positive, hard-working, and without complaint–and possesses one of the best power-to-weight ratios on the squad. For now, Banks is reflecting on London, but hasn't ruled out Rio.

RR: From the outside, everything I've heard about the athletes in the men's eight is that it was an outstanding group, really supportive of one another–blue-collar, hard workers. How were the team dynamics?

David Banks: This group was an amazing group to be apart of and to work with. All nine guys in the boat but also everyone in the whole selection group and the alternates. It was a lot of fun and an amazing experience to work with these guys this whole year. It was a very long year for all of us and everyone in selection and I think that definitely helped to forge a strong group cohesion. Everyone just wanted to work and get faster the whole year and we pushed each other pretty hard. It truly felt like a team and everyone had a role to play–everyone was focused on doing their job and contributing to making the boat go.

RR: How did you feel on the start line in Lucerne?:

DB: There definitely was some pressure sitting on the start line in Lucerne. Everyone knew what the stakes were at that point. But I think the boat responded very well to the pressure and to the challenge. I think we were able to, as a group, turn it from this huge weight on our shoulders to this opportunity before us. So at the start line I don't think we were held back by anything and were able to be free to take on the challenge. I think we were well prepared throughout this year for this challenge and the pressure and stress was nothing new to us.

RR: How did you feel on the start line in London, before the heat? How different was it from your experience of Lucerne?

DB: It was a really tension-free feel to the start of the Heat. We all had worked so hard all year and had to go through many obstacles to get to that point, to that moment. It just felt like we were ready. We had done the work and we were ready to just go. Its the Olympics so it can be hard to really reproduce how you feel on the start line, but it we felt good having already been in a pressure environment in Lucerne and that gave us some confidence. Lucerne was a little bit different, everything is smaller than the Olympics. There are definitely more distractions in the Olympics but again, we felt well prepared.

RR: What do you remember from the final?

DB: It was tough. Everything happens so fast and its hard to remember exactly how things happened. Just remember that everything was really close in the race. The whole field, 1-6 were so close the entire way down. We knew we were in fourth coming into the last parts of the race and that we had work to do to get back into the leaders. We were pushing, everyone was pushing and couldn't hear anything the last 300 meters, the noise from the crowd was incredible. Unfortunately, we came up just a little bit too short. It was a very tough race and tough way to end. It was one of the closest eights finals in history and in those situations you want to come out on top. We just came in on the wrong side of it.

RR: What does this experience mean to you? Will you continue to train for Rio?

DB: It will still take some time to really get more perspective on the experience and everything. But It is a great honor to represent your country, your family, and everyone who has helped and supported you and to represent those who don't have the same opportunities that you do. In my family and in my family history there are so many family members who have not had the same opportunities that I have had for many reasons, whether it be race, or gender or religion or whatever it may be. They paved the way so that I could be at that start line in the Olympic final. I will never forget that and am very fortunate for the opportunities that I have had and that has always helped put things in perspective. Right now, I am not sure about the future or Rio in 2016. Just going to get back home and take some time to figure out my next steps.

Thanks very much to David for taking the time, and we wish him the all the best for the future, whatever it holds (though we do hope that it includes a third appearance at the Olympics with USRowing)! For more on David, see his profile page on the official site of USRowing.

-RR

Monday, August 20, 2012

VOTW: The Olympic Life, with Natalie Dell



Our Video Of The Week this week is Natalie Dell's fantastic, behind-the-scenes look at what it was like to be an athlete at the 2012 Olympic Games, following her bronze medal performance in the U.S. women's quad (along with Megan Kalmoe, Adrienne Martelli, and Kara Kohler). Not only does the above video give the outside world a peek at what some might call the 'glamorous side' of an Olympic athlete's experience, it also shows Dell's understanding of and appreciation for the opportunities before her. Dell began rowing as a club athlete at Penn State, before earning her stripes in sculling and breaking into the senior national team in 2010, when she took fifth in the quad in Karapiro. Since then, Dell has been on the podium at both the 2011 world championships in Bled (silver) and in Eton Dorney. You can learn more about Natalie on the Facebook fan page dedicated to her.

Want to suggest the next 'Video Of The Week?' Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your suggestion via Twitter (twitter.com/rowingrelated), or get in touch via our Facebook page.

-RR

Friday, August 17, 2012

RR Answers Your Training Questions: Running and Rowing

Training on the Tideway (Photo: © B. Kitch)
Every now and then, athletes and coaches write in to RR about particular training issues or goals. And, we're here to answer your questions. Here's a recent example of a question from one of our readers:
I'm a personal trainer and have a client I will be working with that is a rower. I will be working specifically with him on running to help increase his endurance for rowing. I certainly want this to complement his rowing and have been researching what training would be beneficial (hill repeats, track work, steps etc).

His shortest distance is 2k and longest being a 5k. I would love some suggestions on what running workouts would be the most beneficial.

If you have any suggestions or can point me in the direction of material that would be a helpful guide that would be great. I know you are the experts in rowing and would love some advice.

Thank you! -M
From the RR Editorial Staff: I would say that in order to have the most success it is important to do a combination of power (sprinting) and endurance (distance) running as a supplement to rowing training. If someone were to ask me which runners make the best rowers, I would probably say 400 meter hurdlers, because they have the right blend of power and endurance. Although distance runners have more endurance and log the mileage required to be a great rower, they lack the necessary power. The perfect rower would probably be someone built like a 400 meter hurdler with a little more endurance training to complement their power/strength.

The best way to look at his training as he prepares for 2k and 5k racing is to look at his two energy systems: anaerobic power/fast-twitch muscle and aerobic endurance/slow-twitch muscle. Train each of them as best you can. The best way to train the power/fast-twitch component would be much the same way you would train a sprinter: starting each workout with a 1-2 mile easy jog and then interval sessions of short high intensity bursts working on maximum power and speed. For these types of workouts I would do things like 10 x 100 meters all out with 15 seconds rest (very little rest) and 2-3 x 4 x 200 w/ 30 seconds rest, or 2 x 5 x 150m w/ 2 min rest working on maximum speed with short rest. I would also do sessions with longer rest and more speed intensity as 4 x 400 with 3 minutes rest as fast as possible. Hill repeats and steps/stadiums are also great if done HARD/FAST. I would do any work on the hills or steps as an all out blast for whatever length of time you want from 15 seconds-10 minutes with lots of rest to ensure lots of speed. These are things that will increase his maximum power which is very important in rowing. The best rowers in the world can all generate very impressive peak power numbers. These speed/fast-twitch workouts will help that.

Despite the need for power to be a great rower, endurance may be more important. If I had to pick one workout to do for a rower it would be more endurance/distance based, but it would be great to have some speed and power IN ADDITION to lots of volume/endurance training. Rowers log a lot of mileage and train as rowers much more like distance runners do in terms of total volume. To give you an idea, collegiate rowers are rowing on the water or rowing machine typically between 90-160k a week. That should give you a good sense of the volume required whether it is rowing or running that much volume should be similar to train the heart and legs. If he is a high school athlete something more in the ballpark of 50-80k a week of total volume combined rowing and running might be more appropriate. In this sense it is important to help make sure he can increase his endurance. The bulk of the training has to be about logging consistent mileage and increasing aerobic base. This is the easiest thing to control and improve over time with training. If he is able to increase his endurance and can run faster for longer, it will help him in rowing.

Finally, there is the middle ground type of training that combines the two and is more of the anaerobic threshold and VO2Max variety. These are things that would simulate his testing and racing at 2k and 5k distances. These would include workouts like 4 x 1 mile w/ 3-5 minutes rest, 1600, 1200, 800, 400, 200 breakdown w/ 3 min rest, or 2 x 3 miles with 5-10 minutes rest or 3-6 mile hard "tempo" runs. It is usually good to do at least one of these type of efforts every week to really push fitness and ability to sustain the redline pace longer and longer.

Without knowing specifically the level of the athlete you are working with, I would suggest a typical week of running workouts of something along the following lines:

Day 1: 4-8 mile medium paced aerobic run at 70-80% of max HR to build endurance
Day 2: 2 mile easy warmup, 4 x 1 mile w/ 3-5 minutes rest, 1 mile cool down
Day 3: 30-60 minutes of cross-training (run, bike, swim)
Day 4: 4-6 miles moderate at 75-80% max HR
Day 5: 2 mile easy warmup, running drills and steps, 10 x 100m all out w/ 15 seconds rest, 1 mile cool down
Day 6: 5-10 mile progression run, starting easy and building speed throughout the run to finish strong at a hard tempo type effort
Day 7: OFF or cross-training

Got specific goals, and the desire to do what it takes to accomplish them? Looking for some training insights & advice? Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your questions via Twitter (twitter.com/rowingrelated), or get in touch via our Facebook page.

-RR

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Olympic Experience: One Journo's Take on the Games in London

'London Old and New' (Illustration: B. Kitch)
We're all going through it–that feeling of post-Olympics blues. There's no denying it, nor can you deny that this was one of the best sporting spectacles of the modern era. Case in point: it was the most-watched sporting event in U.S. history, according to NBC. What was it that made it so great? From a rowing perspective, I have a few thoughts on the matter.

Time and Place
The sport of rowing, as we know it, has its roots on the Thames, in London. The Doggett's Coat and Badge race, which dates back to 1715, is contested over a 4 mile, 5 furlong course running from London Bridge (not to be confused with Tower Bridge) to Cadogian Pier. The contestants are Thames Watermen, who, before the proliferation of river crossings in London, were the main source of transportation across the Thames. The racing shells? Originally, these were the very boats used to take passengers from one side of the river to the other.

Also, just upriver from Eton is Henley-on-Thames–arguably the Mecca of international rowing, and, without question, a unique experience in the rowing world. Henley Royal Regatta dates to 1839, and has been held continuously ever since, with the exception of the two World Wars.

While the U.K. was enduring one of the rainiest summers on record prior to the Games, the weather cleared for much of the Olympics, and, to paraphrase London Mayor Boris Johnson (who is a very thoughtful and entertaining writer, and, naturally, a classicist), are we to be undone by a spot of rain? Never.

So, London 2012 had both time and place in its corner–the historical birthplace of our concept of rowing (yes, I know there is a rowing race that takes place in the Aeneid, and that they had competitions between triremes as a part of the Panathenaic Festival in Athens some 2,500 years ago, but when was the last time you rowed on a boat with three levels of oars?), with, as Mayor Johnson predicted, "a classic English late July," with beautiful clouds, a rainstorm or two, and wonderful, warm and sunny intervals.

The Pinnacle of our Sport
There are some Olympic sports that, while it is important that they be included in the program, don't have the same draw for the spectator. The reason? The Olympics are meant to be the pinnacle of sport–the highest level of competition in any given discipline–and while Olympic basketball is certainly entertaining, you don't see games like Team USA v. Nigeria in the NBA (final score: 156-73). Rowing at London 2012, however, saw the best of the best putting everything on the line–truly the highest level of our sport, with all the dramatic finishes, fantastic stories, and record-breaking performances to back that claim.

Team GB lived up to the hype. From their first gold medal, thanks to Sporting Giants' graduate Helen Glover and Heather Stanning of the British Army, in the women's pair (the first-ever gold medal for GB Rowing on the women's side), to the excellent performance of their lightweights, the dramatic men's eight final (in which the GB crew clearly risked all for a chance at gold–a decision that nearly cost them a podium finish), to the crowning achievement of their men's four amid all the hype and controversy surrounding the lineup and the emergence of the Australian crew built around Drew Ginn, the 2012 GB Rowing squad performed better than any of their predecessors, racking up nine medals (four of them gold).

Team USA
For Team USA, the results were strong, but desperately close to excellent. While the U.S. team walked away with three medals (two on the women's side, one for the men), they were just 0.5 seconds away from two more. The women's pair of Sarah Zelenka and Sara Hendershot outperformed expectations and ended up just 0.2 seconds away from a bronze medal behind double world champs New Zealand, and the men's eight final was one of the most difficult to watch, for personal reasons. That said, I couldn't have felt prouder of the crew and what they accomplished.

Having friends in any lineup makes a reporter's job a little more complicated. In this case, however, writing the story of the men's eight, as I did as part of my Olympics double-feature for Rowing News, was an honor. Without giving away too much from the article, suffice it to say that what they achieved had everything to do with the very best aspects of the Olympic spirit, of representing themselves and their country, and of truly giving everything they had despite disadvantages and early deficits. San Francisco Chronicle writer Scott Ostler published a nice piece about them, entitled, ''Rocky' rowers make it a fight,' which has now been posted to SFGate.com.

London Life
The City of London absolutely delivered for the Games. I've never been to an Olympic Games in the past, but I must say that, as someone who lived in London for a time, the travel and logistics were as painless as could be during the Olympics, thanks in no small part to the hard work of everyone involved with the Games, from the organizers to the volunteers. London was not overwhelmed by the Games–indeed, in a city with such a rich, cosmopolitan history, how could it be? Rather, the city and the people took it in stride, and made it, as they had hoped, a friendly Games.

Getting the chance to see friends after their competition came to a close was a fantastic way to finish the trip. There is so much to see and do in London–indeed, in the words of Dr. Samuel Johnson (whose home at Gough Square I visited along with Iain Weir), "...when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." The reception of rowers in London is also quite different from that at home. Walking around with Steve was more like walking around with an NBA basketball player in the U.S.–the Brits do know and love their rowing. (Also, it didn't hurt that Steve was, more than once, mistaken for Michael Phelps–initially he tried to deny it, but his attempts to do so were universally met with the questionable logic that only the true Michael Phelps would deny that he were Michael Phelps.)

Next up: Rio
As has been pointed out by classicists and ancient Olympic Games enthusiasts alike, one of the key differences between the modern and ancient festivals is that each one of the modern events represents a microcosm of the host society, frozen, in a way, in time. That is, when we look back at the posters, the merchandise, the logos, the venues, and the experience of London 2012 years from now, it will have a clear bearing on that exact moment in history. The Ancient Games, by contrast, represented hundreds of years of an athletics-based religious festival, with the prime example being the altar of Zeus at its heart–a massive mound of ash built from generations of sacrificial offerings and feasting–that was in itself a symbol of continuity and ongoing, shared tradition (you can read about it in Pausanius' discussion of Olympia in his Description of Greece, published in the second century AD).

Following the amazing spectacle that Beijing provided, London knew that the challenge of putting on an outstanding Games would be considerable. But London did not fail. The Games were a triumph, and, in keeping with the modern conception of the Olympics, they were also a celebration of contemporary British-ness at its best. Rio will be a whole new ballgame, and now, it's less than four years away.

-Bryan

Monday, August 13, 2012

Video of the Week: The African Olympic Qualification Regatta in Alexandria, Egypt



Whatever your take on FISA's decision to include Niger's Hamadou Djibo Issaka in the 2012 Olympic Rowing Regatta, the move highlighted FISA's continuing efforts to make rowing (and sculling) a more global affair. While the likes of Sir Steve Redgrave publicly criticized the decision, Issaka became a fan favorite at Eton Dorney, receiving some of the largest ovations at the regatta outside of those reserved for athletes representing the home country.

In keeping with that sentiment, and as someone interested in the international development of our sport, I couldn't help but find the above video fascinating. Shot at the 2011 African Olympic Qualification Regatta in Alexandria, Egypt, the video shows the A Final of the men's single. The class of this field is clearly Nour El-Din Mohamed of Egypt (listed on the FISA website as Nour El Din Hassanein), who would go on to a 20th place finish in London, while James Fraser-Mackenzie of Zimbabwe, in his first Olympics at just 19 years of age, would finish last in the E Final, after having taken eighth place at the 2011 World Rowing Junior Championships on the same course.

Is there a rising tide in world rowing? Given the strength of the performances of India's Sawarn Singh (16th), Cuba's Angel Fournier Rodriguez (a strong seventh, ahead of two-time Olympic champion Olaf Tufte), and Aleksandar Aleksandrov of Azerbaijan (just 22 years old, coming off a victory in the men's single at U23 worlds earlier this year, and racing to a 5th place finish at Eton Dorney), it seems like things are moving in the right direction. Citius, altius, fortius.

Want to suggest the next 'Video of the Week?' Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your suggestion via Twitter (twitter.com/rowingrelated), or get in touch via our Facebook page.

-Bryan

Friday, August 10, 2012

Olympics Vlog: Clips from London and Eton



What a trip! The above video is composed of a series of clips, shot over the last two weeks, following the trip out to Windsor, as well as a walking tour of Central London. First off is the Olympic Torch onboard the Royal Barge, Gloriana (you have to look carefully, but it's there–admittedly, it's more visible in the still shot), as it progressed through Barnes Bridge on the way Central London. The trip to the course featured a train ride, bus transport, and a mile and a half of walking to reach the entrance–fortunately, it was a beautiful walk, amid an excited group of rowing enthusiasts. Finally, walking around Central London along with Steve Kasprzyk and Iain Weir was quite a trip in itself!

Thanks to all who made it such a great time, as well as to all those out there who followed along the way!

-Bryan

Thursday, August 9, 2012

RR Olympics Blog: Reflecting on London



While the Games are ongoing, the rowing came to a close last Saturday, and I've since returned from London following a day or two about town. The experience was both exhausting and extremely gratifying–putting together online coverage and the feature for the Rowing News Olympic edition was a daunting task, but one from which I learned a tremendous amount, and I'm proud of the magazine piece that was the result of eight days at the racecourse in Eton.

It was a tremendously successful Olympic Rowing Regatta, featuring one of the deepest fields ever (and very close racing as a result), some fantastic storylines, and a great number of the biggest names in our sport–Ebbesen, Ginn, Karsten, Searle, to name a few–in what may well have been their final Olympic Games. A huge thank you goes to FISA, the organizers, and the volunteers who helped to make it such a spectacle; from the standpoint of both a rowing journo and a fan, it was both impressive and enjoyable. Also, the weather (mostly) cooperated, which never hurts!

I've included one more Olympic photo gallery, with more images from London, including a few from a walking tour of the city center with Iain Weir and Steve Kasprzyk (the latter easily identifiable given that he's 6'7")*. At work on a short film from clips taken around town, which I'll post tomorrow (Friday).

Thanks to all the RR readers out there for following the journey to London 2012!

-Bryan

*More photos to be added to this set over the next 24 hours

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Video of the Week: The British Men's Four Take Gold at Eton Dorney–The Lego Version



This week's (slightly delayed) video comes to us from The Guardian (UK), with all the drama and action from the men's coxless four final at Eton Dorney, Lego style. Yes, rowing in the United Kingdom is enough of a mainstream sport that it inspires Lego-based reenactments, especially for their flagship crew. From start to finish, this is startlingly accurate, from the hairstyles, to the uniforms, to the eyewear–the one thing I'm not quite sure about is why Andy Triggs Hodge appears to have a pencil mustache. Outside of that, however, it's right on.

No mustaches detected.
The race was an outstanding battle between Australia and Great Britain–from the bank, it looked like the GB crew's style, while not necessarily as smooth and relaxed as that of the Aussies, translated better to a sprint, and allowed them to simply chuck it all in and race it to the line–the Aussie near-pause at the release, while it is a beautiful, clean style, seemed to hold them back just slightly down the closing stretch.

Something that Kevin Light mentioned in conversation, and which no one seems to be talking about, is that the Australian bow pair were (Will Lockwood and James Chapman) in the coxed pair last year in Bled–quite a transition from the slowest boat class to one of the fastest, and a testament to their tremendous skills as athletes. Congrats to the GB crew, who overcame all the pressure, all the banter, and all the challenges to defend their Olympic title in one of the most exciting races of the regatta. It's a bittersweet ending for the legendary Drew Ginn, who was ever so close to his fourth Olympic gold–but who knows, maybe he'll change his mind again and have another crack at Rio!

-RR

Friday, August 3, 2012

RR Olympics Blog: Quick Hits and Impressions from Eton Dorney



Apologies to RR readers, as I have been so busy putting together content for RowingNews.com, the RN eNewsletter, and the next Rowing News mag that I'm afraid I've been a bit remiss here! Much to report -- here are a few quick hits and impressions from the past few days at Dorney Lake:

-The volunteers and London 2012 folks around the course have been fantastic, as have the military on hand for security. To a man (or woman), they have been courteous and cheerful, and the greeters in elevated chairs at the gates have been throwing around some top-notch banter as well. A big thank you from a rowing journo!

-The course itself as an Olympic venue is outstanding -- great views of the racing from the grandstands, the two 'jumbo trons' combined with the fantastic overhead camera, and the attendance (there have been 25,000+ spectators there each day) have combined to make for one hell of an Olympic experience! Also, the dulcet tones of FISA's Robert Treharne Jones have provided an appropriate level of insight and explanation for rowing fanatics and non-rowers alike. This being my first trip to the Olympics, I'm a bit worried -- it will be a tough one to top from the rowing perspective!

-Following her race, and the medal ceremony, Megan Kalmoe was kind enough to show me her bronze medal -- it's a beautiful, weighty thing, befitting the Games it represents (thanks again Megan!). Also, glad to see her and the rest of the USA women's quad getting a chance to wear their 'podium' jackets, even it if was about 90 degrees and sunny (for the non-U.S. audience, that's roughly 32 degrees Celsius). And, while we're talking about the women's quad, there has been a lot of chat about how Helen Glover only began rowing in 2008 (in fact, that was the basis of my interview on BBC Radio 5 Live) -- let us not forget that Kara Kohler (now an Olympic bronze medalist) only started in 2009, and learned how to scull roughly 14 months ago.

-Having gone through the FISA online results database, the men's eight final at Eton Dorney this week was the closest six-boat Olympic final ever in that event, from top to bottom. Only 3.12 seconds separated the sixth place Australians from Germany as they crossed the line on Wednesday. The closest top to bottom before this year looks to be the 1932 Games in Los Angeles, when there was a spread of 3.2 seconds in a four boat final.

I've included a photo gallery from around London and Windsor -- more to come!

-Bryan

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

RR Olympics Blog: Getting the Hang of it Now

Flag outside the venue at Eton Dorney (Photo: B. Kitch)
The first day of finals at Eton Dorney was nothing short of amazing, with one of the closest men's eight races on record -- truly one for the ages. Add to that the first ever Olympic gold medal for the GB women's rowing team, a bronze medal for the U.S. women's quad, and two outstanding performances from the US crews in the men's eight and women's pair events, and you've got yourself what might be described as a 'cracking' day at Dorney Lake. On the schedule for today are the finals of the men's double, lightweight men's four, and women's eight -- an event with another winning streak on the line.

The Germans showed that they are, indeed, just that much better in the men's eight yesterday, responding to what was a huge challenge from the home team in the final 500m, with the tremendous roar of the grandstand to urge the GB crew toward gold. Having spoken with several members of the U.S. crew yesterday, needless to say, they were disappointed not to medal. Given their excellent start in the heat, it was a bit surprising to see them in sixth place coming through 500m and 1000m, but they fought very well through the second half of the race, and it truly came down to inches as the crews crossed the line -- not sure that there has ever been an Olympic final in which all six eights crossed the finish within 3.12 seconds of one another. Hats off to GB for throwing everything into it in a quest for gold -- it nearly cost them a podium finish, as the U.S. came through quite well in the final 250m. Putting things in perspective, however, what both the U.S. men's eight and women's pair (two tenths of a second out of the medals) accomplished serves as a shining example of the Olympic ideal -- they battled against the odds, laid everything on the line, and competed extremely well.

The U.S. women's eight will likely be asked the same question, posed to the Germans by GB on the men's side, today by the Canadians, but the U.S. looked as untouchable in the eight during the heat as the Kiwi men's pair have looked in their races thus far. The men's double final is notably without the Beijing champions from Australia, and last year's silver and bronze medalist crews from Germany and France, respectively. The men's double has become one of the closest events from top to bottom, with several crews left out of the A Final who might have a chance at gold on any given day.

Given the level of writing, time at the course, and time spent commuting it's been quite a whirlwind. Also, people seem to be asking for my opinion more and more of late (being a Rowing News correspondent has its perks!) -- I've had the great fortune to be interviewed regarding yesterday's finals by both CBC Radio and BBC Radio 5 Live, the latter only a few minutes ago as the morning's coverage kicks off on Day Six at the Olympics. I hope you've been enjoying the write-ups posted to RowingNews.com -- more to come from the course at Eton Dorney this afternoon!

-Bryan