There were winners, losers, lots of surprises, great crowds and a dose of controversy in a truly memorable 2014 World Rowing Championships in Amsterdam.

Among the winners, Great Britain’s 18-strong men’s heavyweight sweep team, every single one of whom won at least a silver medal, from the coxed pair on Friday evening to the history-making men’s eight in the event’s final race on Sunday. Before last year, GB had never won a world title in the blue ribband event. Now they’ve done it in successive years, with five crew-changes from one year to the next. 

New Zealand were celebrating too, having won six gold medals - more than ever before - to top the medal table. Two golds came from Eric Murray and Hamish Bond, partnered by cox Caleb Shepherd in the first of their pairs events.

Among the losers, the GB women’s squad who – outside of another global title for Helen Glover and Heather Stanning – will be disappointed with their showing. The eight was the only other crew to reach a final, finishing back in sixth place.

The surprises and controversy arguably went hand-in-hand as debates raged about the relative fairness of each lane, with a raging, swirling wind on the Bosbaan that some estimated to make a speed difference of a second per lane from one to six.

South African lightweight double James Thompson and John Smith - in the shelter of lane one – provided a shock by overhauling overwhelming favourites France but they also revived memories of 2012, when the same duo were in the light four that pipped Great Britain to gold in similarly controversial circumstances.

The following day, as the wind moved around, crews in lane one finished last in six of the seven finals.

Commentator Martin Cross said in his video blog afterwards: “Serious questions will have to be asked about the courses rowing chooses to row on. We're an outdoor sport, that's true, but if you can row on courses that will give you the best chance of a fair result, I think you've got to go for it.” 

But back to the world champions: Nathaniel Reilly-O’Donnell, bow man in the GB eight, finally posted his video of the sweep squad on their final training camp in Avis, Portugal.

Good work by Noddy on and off the water, and we're not the only ones handing complements his way.

The arrival of Constantine Louloudis in the stroke seat of the eight clearly helped them move on from a season-long position as podium hopefuls to having bigger ambitions, as elated cox Phelan Hill outlined when Martin Cross caught up with him and Louloudis after their final.

Louloudis continues to do things his way, eschewing full-time training at the GB HQ in Caversham in favour of completing his Classics degree at Oxford University next year. He is back to the training grind very quickly though. 

Despite their success, the eight’s coach Christian Felkel continues to experiment with his crew line-up and seating order, as this photo reveals.

It’s tough to compare Olympic champions but James Cracknell – who won a couple of golds in men’s fours and spent the championships commentating for the BBC – believed the current British version is at least the best Britain has produced since he retired.

Katherine Grainger – also hard at work with the Beeb – pointed out on Saturday that for the first time this century there was a set of sculling finals with no British women in any of them.

Rio 2016 Olympic qualification places will be based on 2015 World Champs results. Had qualifying been this year, GB's women would have got through in just three of the six boats available. Of the nations at the top of the medal table only Germany’s women fared worse.


Of course, one way to strengthen the squad would be for Grainger to stage a comeback for Rio 2016. Everyone thought her retirement was a foregone conclusion but – publicly at least – she remains coy. The squad report back on 23 September so we’ll see whether the quadruple Olympic medallist is among them.

Grainger will be just one of a host of GB Olympic medallists on display at the Head of the Charles in Boston in October, as stern pair of a Molesey BC Masters boat with her Athens pairs partner Cath Bishop.

There are a few “Great 8s” in the draw too: line-up of world sculling medallists including Croatia’s Sinkovic brothers, Mahe Drysdale and Ondrej Synek racing for Craftsbury, with their rivals a group of world-class sweepers rowing for Taurus BC. New world singles champ Emma Twigg is just one of the world finalists in the Cambridge BC crew going for the Women’s Championship win.


Meanwhile, away from Amsterdam

Dorney Lake, the 2012 rowing venue, is an 80-minute drive from Olympic Park and many of the rowers didn’t get to Stratford before they had their beer goggles on but rowing has finally made it to the park as London Youth Rowing have been holding taster sessions. 

Asked to pick three words to describe last month’s Commonwealth Regatta at Strathclyde Park, one competitor chose “competitive”, “fun” and “wet”. See for yourself in this video from Scottish Rowing.


And it’s nice to see knights of the realm taking part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Shame we didn’t see Inverdale and Grainger taking Sir Steve up on his challenge during the TV coverage from the Worlds. 


Moon Rowers teach Learn to Row

Former Oxford Boat Race oarsman Alex Woods took a while to send over a report on the charity Moon Row in Zambia, in part because he had to dash back to work as a junior doctor but also because he had to have his thumb surgically washed out for a deep infection, apparently a result of those blisters.

Before the team set off for their non-stop 250km journey across Lake Kariba they ran a Leanr to Row course in Solwezi, a copper-mining town on the border with Congo.

“We had roughly 20 kids aged from 12 to 18 on the course, which ran for three days,” writes Alex.

Through donations the course received five singles and a coxed quad, which were delivered from South Africa, a massive feat in itself, taking six days to get to Solwezi.

“The kids were falling in all the time (no crocodiles here) but were keen to get back up and try again, and made fantastic progress.”

Here’s a link to those fundraising pages again, just in case you missed them first time.


Shameless self-promotion

Hugga not only hosts The Rowlup on its website, it also makes rowing gear. Have a look at this video to see what makes it stand out from the rest.

And once you’ve done that, make sure you sign up to receive The Rowlup via email: if you do so before 1st October, you will be in with a chance of winning £200 worth of rowing kit. 




Got a suggestion or comment? Just want to let us know what you think? Use the comment section below, tweet @martingough22 or use the hashtag #TheRowlup.


What do you think?

comments powered by Disqus