When is winning an Olympic Gold Never Enough? Perhaps when you are British?

Wouldn’t it be exciting if the men’s squad stayed in the eight for the Rio Olympics? Or if GB’s top pair raced off against arguably the best crew in the upcoming Olympics, the Kiwi pair of Murray and Bond? Shouldn’t the women’s pair double up into the eight because otherwise it will just be boring – won’t it?

The GB Rowing Team can be awfully predictable at times, so wouldn’t it be just marvelous to spice things up a bit?

Well, in a word, no.

Some of the above statements are just a few examples of things I read or hear about from outside of Caversham. Standard towpath talk when waiting for ones crew to race past. And yet not once have I heard anyone from within the GB Rowing Team talk about a safe bet or an easy win.

The athletes within the squad aren’t taking things for granted and the senior management and coaches know how hard it is going to be to just secure one gold medal at the upcoming Rio Olympics. Winning has become so synonymous with rowing in this country that suddenly a victory is too easy if it is done in the four. If we, as a country, can produce crews that no other crew has a realistic chance of beating, in a similar vein to the Kiwi men’s pair, US women’s eight or the Sinkovic brothers in the Croatian double, isn’t that to be applauded rather than criticised?

The layout of the Olympic Team for Rio should, in my opinion, be as follows.

 

Men – Sweep

 

The priority boat should be the 4-. I have no doubt our best four athletes could win a gold medal if they decided to make this the priority boat.

The second boat should be the 8+. There is such strength in depth within the men’s squad that whoever is in the eight has a real chance at gold as well, but dealing with the athletes who think they should be in the four will be tricky management. Up to now, Jurgen seems to have kept everybody happy but Olympic year is something else and eight, plus Langridge and Triggs-Hodge, doesn’t go into four. Similarly to the Sydney Olympics in 2000, there is a real possibility of two gold medals from the 4- and 8+.

The pair, a mirror of what happened in London 2012 with a young combination of Satch and Nash, should be an upcoming boat of potential Tokyo 2020 stars, with no fear and go out there and give it a real go. The way in which New Zealand have dominated this event in recent year, suggests there could be a medal available if other nations go elsewhere.

 

Men – Sculling

 

The priority boat should continue to be the 4x. Injury and illness hampered their season but at the 2014 World Championships in Amsterdam, they demonstrated their speed, losing the gold to Ukraine by 9 hundredths of a second and should stay as a unit.

After that it seems there needs to be an improved plan in place. See Fatsculler’s knowledgeable views on the issues here; https://danielwspring.wordpress.com/2016/01/22/2016-preview-part-1-the-heavyweight-men/.

The doubles performance in 2015 continues to put pressure on Walton and Collins as a combination. However, the duo’s performances at trials in singles demonstrated they were quick at the end of last year. Pressure from Groom, Beaumont and a decision for Campbell to make on the category boat he’d like to race in, means one of these men, injury and illness permitting, will completely miss out, with another going as a spare. My suggestion would be a classic doubles matrix. Look at the fastest combination and that is the double. Then race everybody else off in a single and that’s your sculler.

 

Women

 

Well let’s start with the most important crew – the women’s pair. They won’t double up as it didn’t work for Kim Brennan (nee Crow) in London and it is a pointless exercise here. They are good enough to win the pair but it won’t be easy. The New Zealand pair are a young developing crew, who are improving all the time. Even if the pair join the eight, the latter still won’t win.

The United States 8+ is phenomenal. At the Aiguebelette World Cup in 2014, they let the Canadians go out to a commanding lead and just hunted them down in one of the most impressive rowing performances I’ve seen. So strengthen the eight with people from the quads group, but the pair should remain focused on their one goal.

The double is the priority (only qualified) sculling boat and the combination of Grainger and Thornley has huge potential. What is clear is Grainger hasn’t come back for anything other than a gold and it is Paul Thomson’s job to support this. A summer of racing left and the pressure is on. What isn’t going to happen is Grainger racing in anything other than the double! She can’t risk a medal by distracting herself in trying to qualify the quad. If they do qualify, she has to stay in the boat, which surely has less chance of winning a medal than the double?

 

Lightweights

 

Both the doubles should stay as they are. The men’s crew of Will Fletcher and Richard Champers has an excellent chance of catching up with the French and securing a gold medal, although it is going to be extremely difficult. The women’s crew have Kat Copeland, who knows how to win, and Charlotte Taylor is developing into an outstanding athlete who can secure another Olympic gold for GB in this event.

Meanwhile, this is potentially the last Olympic Games for the men’s fours event and what an event it always is. With the current four battling with, amongst others, Kirkwood, Scrimgeour, and Cassells for a seat in the boat, potentially the domestic musical chairs can increase boat speed ahead of the summer, in what is usually the tightest racing final of most regattas. What difference will a change in coach make over one season?

 

 

An ever-increasing number of lightweight rowers within Great Britain are voicing concerns about the potential of the lightweight men’s 4- event being scrapped. I completely agree with them and understand their point. I don’t understand their point about trying to get the men’s heavyweight 4- kicked out instead.

It wasn’t the legacy of men’s lightweight rowing that secured £32,622,862 funding for this current Olympiad. Sure, make the point your event should stay in, but lets not bite off the heavyweight men’s hands that feed us in a feverish attempt to keep the lightweight four event involved. Historically it’s the men’s heavyweight programme, with the exception of London, that has provided the majority of medals to fund our sport. There are many athletes who are currently funded that owe an awful lot to the heavyweight men’s success, so how about we don’t try and get rid of one of our major funding streams?

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