The Way We Were: Training (and Winning) with the Australian National Team in 1974

The 1974 Aussie LM4- training in Switzerland
As we approach the end of another year, it's important to reflect on how far we've come. And, one way to do that is to turn back the clock. 40 years ago, the Australian national team was preparing for the 1974 world championships in Lucerne, Switzerland. The below film, shot by Harvey Nicholson and edited by the same and his son, Mike, offers what is at once a nostalgic and informative view of elite rowing training at the time. The lightweight crew—the first-ever Aussie crew to win international gold—was made up of Campbell Johnston, Andrew Michelmore, Geoff Rees, and Colin Smith (from stern to bow), and recently had a reunion (and weigh in!) to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their victory. Here's some background on the film from Mike Nicholson:
[This film follows] the 1974 Australian Men's Lightweight Coxless Four that were the first Australian crew ever to win a gold medal at either the Olympics or World Rowing Championships and all came from Melbourne University Boat Club, Victoria, father, Harvey Nicholson (then President of MUBC and fundraiser among others for the crew) shot and and we edited of their lead up races, training and winning the gold medal in Lucerne, Switzerland. I had steered the stroke, Cam Johnston, in a LW4+ and LW8+ in '70 and '71. -MN

The differences in training regimen are marked, but the technique is already characteristically Australian in some ways (albeit with virtually no swing over the hips, in keeping with the predominate style of the time), and there are echoes of the long, loping rhythm that so epitomized Drew Ginn's crews of the 1990s and 2000s. Most of the video is made up of on-the-water training footage—for those most interested in the scenes from the 1974 World Rowing Championships, skip ahead to the 18:45 mark. It's worth a look, not least because of its potential to inspire some sweet throwback uniforms.

Thanks very much to Mike for sending along the video! You can watch his follow-up to this, on the 1975 campaign, here. And, for more from Mike Nicholson, check out his RR interview from 2013, and visit his YouTube Channel.


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