Monday, March 12, 2007

Australian Rowing Championships: Update 3

Our National Championships have been run and the last day of the event involved some great State racing. This entry will be bias as I don’t feel any need to be objective here today. Victoria took out the prize for best performed State and it was noted by many after we had raced just how much pride the Victorian athletes take in competing for their State.

We are proud and certainly don’t hide our joy for being involved in an event that pit’s State against State. Ever since my first time on the State team back in 1993 as an 18 year old it has had a special place in my heart. The culture that has been created around performing above and beyond your personal expectations when you put on the rowing suit with the big white V has always been paramount. Crews lift, athlete dig deeper as we all support each other in the challenge that is State racing in Australia.

Competing in the Kings Cup is amazing. The events history is alive with tales of gut wrenching efforts and sublime athleticism that inspire. It is true that Victoria has had a great track record in the event, yet still we as a crew feel a strong sense of importance of never stepping down from the challenge. We always stand tall and if beaten we are proud to have rowed with every ounce of energy we could muster. Yesterday though we had the energy and a very clear plan that was executed very well.

The race started at 1.15pm, which meant a long period of waiting before we could get our chance to perform. So much of the event comes down to how you play the waiting game. We hear bits and pieces of news about our other crews as the face their challenges. Each glimpse elevates the heart rate and a constant remind I have for myself is to enjoy the buzz, but hold for our time. The night before the State races we had a dinner and each coach shares with the team how their crew will go the next day. The support for each other is great and what really capped the night off was a welcome guest, captain Victoria. As a figure came bouncing through a tent on the bank of the course, dressed in a Victorian rowing suit and sporting glasses and hat, he made mention that he was here this year to do something different. To explain this a little better I should say that captain Victoria is not only a figure of pride, but he also has an amazing way with words. Part poetry, part lyric, he sang his way through a prose of sorts that sparked the wonderful spirit of the Victorian team. This year he out did him self as he managed to bring together every athlete and coach of the team in a string of sentences that came like a flurry and were meet with a great deal of laughter.

Captain Victorian set the tone for what would be a great performance by the team. In the KC as the last event of the day we went about our business preparing for what we knew it would be a tough race. There would be two reasons for this and the first would be because of the very strong head breeze that was building. And we had the best of the lanes as the wind was also blowing cross head which was in our favour in the outside lane. The second reason would be a very competitive NSW crew who had athletes that had performed very well during the regatta in various events. That’s not to say we did think other State would be competitive it just that we felt the NSW crew would be the toughest. After last year we thought NSW would be tough and it ended up being WA who came out and gave it a real shake. With that in mind we had discussed the surprise effort of others too. So with an extremely strong wind and some very serious competitors we knew we had to be on our game. Personally I know all to well how the State race can be turned up side down by a crew having a flyer early. I have been in two particular races over the years when we got caught out and took some time to respond to some bold attacks. After a great win last year our crew was very intent on confirming our position at the front of the field and as such rowed our race to plan which was to take the lead early and continue to turn the screws all the way down the track. With the windy condition there was no chance to let up any way as a number of gusts came though it was important to keep driving the boat through the water. With some 600m to the finish our coxswain let us know our rating, which was around 37/38 and you could feel the effort of our group wanting to charge home. The crowd always gives you a lift and with 250m to go we went with them as the cheered us to the finish. Crossing the line I was exhausted and when I spun around to see the faces of the crew it reminded me why eights racing can be so exciting. Being in the stroke seat is an honour and with James in seven it was great fun to be able to combine. The main drivers of the crew came from all the MUBC boys who we have enjoyed competing against and with over the last few years.

The biggest impression the Nationals has left me with is that sense of team spirit. It comes from many places, that places inside we I find harmony and clarity, that place in a partnership, that place in a four, that place in an eight, that place in a team and that place with your family and friends. The spirit of team is a great uniting force that should never be underestimated. Today as I write this I do feel tired, it has been a long week. The conditions have tested and the time away from family is hard. Our National Championships are but a small step along the way to National selection and International competition. This next week I will rest and then begin to prepare like all the other athletes for what will surely be a great season.

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