“God” Used to be a Rower – discussing Wind, Racing and the Delays in Rio

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Middle of the course awry. Wind and waves are creating havoc on the Olympic Rowing Regatta

Middle of the course awry. Wind and waves are creating havoc on the Olympic Rowing Regatta

Rowers have joked in the past that God must be a rower. More often than not, Olympic Rowing conditions have been consistently excellent.

There have been short delays here or there but it’s been a long time since an Olympic regatta has been so wind effected. And – I think the last time one was SO disrupted it wasn’t even the Rowing regatta – it was the Canoe Kayak regatta in Sydney (2000). The two sports share a venue; Rowing is always week one and Canoe/Kayak is week two.

I’ll never forget watching the Canadian Flag Bearer, Caroline Brunet, and gold-medal favourite – be forced to race her K1-500m final in conditions that seemed to fit the white-water paddlers far more than the sprint/flat water paddlers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glUKGWFJKJA

People were furious, why wouldn’t that international federation and the IOC delay until conditions improved? They couldn’t – the Closing Ceremony would start in a few hours; all sports had to be completed.

I believe FISA, the international rowing federation, took a long look at that situation and made a decision to give rowing some flexibility if that were to happen in (their) week one.

Rowing used to begin on Sunday – day 3 of the Olympics – and the regatta finished on Sunday with Canoe Kayak beginning the next day. That gave rowing no ‘wiggle’ room to reschedule. FISA changed that. Now the Olympic Rowing Regatta begins on day 2 – the morning after the Opening Ceremony – and should be completed on the Saturday. This gives the venue a day to convert from rowing to canoe/kayak, but also it gives FISA a chance to find best conditions.

 

I would suppose that as far as FISA and their Fairness Committee are concerned – this week is a nightmare. Delays are hard on everyone. Athletes have been trying to peak perfectly for a moment in time for years, friends families and fans have spent a lot of money are trying to make sure they’ve the right ticket on the right day, TV networks are trying to juggle how to show everyone everything and FISA needs to figure out how to keep racing fair. (I’ve heard that on-line ticket systems are not co operating well with ticket exchanges. I can only imagine the exhaustion and stress that loved-ones are going through as they pass the “off” days trying to change their tickets (regatta and sometimes airline tickets and hotel bookings too) to the next right one.

I know that FISA study weather patterns – daily and long range – and I wouldn’t be surprised if they have found themselves between a rock and hard place. FISA isn’t responsible for the weather – the best they can do is stay as connected to the expert weather forecasters and look for windows of opportunities. (I have to admit – I often joke the weather forecasters and pollsters seem to be the only people who keep their jobs even though their predictions are so often way off).

Saturday morning’s conditions were terrible – but the week at a glance wouldn’t have given FISA much hope for consistent improvement. Should they have postponed the first day? I read on Sunday, and FISA would have known, that Wednesday and Thursday were supposed to be really bad. (Wednesday has in fact started off with a postponement.) So what were they to do? There are only so many days they can push forward to.

Heats are important, but in light of the continued bad weather – I’m glad that FISA didn’t delay into precious blocks of better racing weather. All other rounds are knock-out rounds and FISA needs to protect those.

The new schedule with 4 days of finals also gives FISA increased flexibility. This new Olympic and World Championship race schedule sets up relatively short days. So even when they merged 2 days on Monday– it was just a 5-hour schedule. FISA can use the afternoons and, worst case-scenario they have Sunday as a reserve day.

Being forced to use Sunday would be FISA’s and the IOC’s worst-case scenario. For the athletes, worst-case scenario would be racing for their Olympic dreams in white-caps, cross winds and/or unfair lanes.

No one dreams that.

After 4 days of Racing in Rio – More of My Thoughts on Canada at the Olympic Rowing Regatta

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Hard to call this Olympic racing - certainly not a rowing anyway

Hard to call this Olympic Racing – and certainly not rowing 

 Well really… After 3 days of Racing because there was a postponment 

(and; just 2 days if you don’t count that big surf day as a real racing day… )

If we look back to the “1 pretty sure and 3 maybes” I wrote about before the regatta began Canada is performing to form with the exception of the men’s quad. What a heartbreaker, and to be specific – I’m talking about Rob Gibson’s heart. Unfortunately I think it might be shattered right now – and I can’t blame him (it?).

I’ve often said that the quad event is the most technical. 4 guys, 8 hands and 8 blades moving at the speed of an eight. If you’re on it – it’s magic; if it gets ahead of you – you’re in for trouble. The conditions on Saturday morning were horrendous. Sadly – all lanes were equally horrendous so the FISA Fairness Committee was slow to act; it wasn’t rowing – but it was fair. The Canadian quad was behind, but was absolutely moving into a position that would have given them a pass into the finals and a shot at the medals. In a flash moment that every rower has nightmares about – Rob Gibson lost his grip on one of his oars. It’s understandable – he was sweaty= slippery, he was soaked by the waves = slippery, and he was in the last few 100m of the race = tired hands = slippery. He lost it, it spun around, he couldn’t get it back and they dropped to last position. That was tough to watch.

The heartbreak came in their repechage. Anyone would have Continue reading

1 Pretty Sure and 3 Maybes for Canadian Rowers in Rio – my picks

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Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, this gorgeous photo of the Olympic Rowing Venue was on the USRowing twitter feed

Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, this gorgeous photo of the Olympic Rowing Venue was on the USRowing twitter feed

Olympic Rowing begins tomorrow and while I’m not going to be on the shores of the Lagoa in Rio, it doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion on how Canada is going to do!

Today, the crews are all waiting to start which is often the hardest part of the regatta. They have had these Olympic races in their hearts and minds for years. Crews haven’t raced for weeks – many since the Lucerne World Cup 10 weeks ago – and can only hope that in training they have made more positive changes than their competitors. For all the drama the World’s press want to focus on … the athletes have a laser focus on the task of chaining approx 220 of their best strokes together, covering the 2000m course faster than anyone else. But now – there is nothing to do but lightly paddle their boats over the course and wait. It’s an exciting and terrifying time.

What do I expect for Canada? I’m pretty sure about 1 medal – and I think there is a shot at up to 3 more. So 1-4 medals; or none <shrug> It’s the Olympics!

 

I wish I could say the “pretty sure” bet was going to be the women’s 8 (W8+) with Lesley Thompson-Willie at the helm (the cox, and my team mate on the 1992 Team!) but sadly they have been racing outside of peak form. They just haven’t found the rhythm that makes their boat sing.

To get on the podium they are going to have to work pretty hard to defeat Great Britain and New Zealand for silver or bronze, but the Dutch and Aussies must have the same plan. It’s hard to say it – but the USA will have to make a massive mistake to not take the top spot … again.

The draw – which FISA has just posted as I write this – shows us that we’re going to learn A LOT!! about the Can W8+ really quickly. They’ve drawn a 3-boat heat on Monday; Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand, where only the fastest boat gets a direct route to the Olympic final and the other two will have to duke-it-out in the repechage (2nd chance race). That start-line is going to be a heart-stopping, breath-holding, OMG-ing moment for all 27 athletes because unlike the other heat that will be won by the USA, someone here has a chance to skip the repechage that will eliminate someone from the Olympics.

 

My “pretty sure” they’ll win a medal tap goes to Canada’s women’s’ lightweight double. They could easily be considered the favourite to win this event – but Continue reading

Were you “pulling” for me then? Would you do it again?

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Canada's Marnie McBean (L) and Kathleen Heddle, gold medal winners greet fans at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympic Games. (CP PHOTO/COA/Mike Ridewood)

Canada’s Marnie McBean (L) and Kathleen Heddle, gold medal winners greet fans at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympic Games. (CP PHOTO/COA/Mike Ridewood)

Many of the blog entries I’ve posted here are intended to share what I’ve learned, to help others when I can. In this post, I’m asking for your help.

 

20 years ago this July, I was part of something special.

At the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, I was on a rowing team that won 6 Olympic medals; Canada set the rowing world on fire! When my rowing partner, Kathleen Heddle and I won our 3rd gold medal – and a bronze the next day – we set a standard that has yet to be met by any Canadian Summer Olympian. I was so fortunate to be part of such an incredible era in Canadian Rowing and I want to do something to recognize this 20th anniversary: I want to do something that gives back.

When the opportunity to ride in the 200km Ride to Conquer Cancer came along I knew that this was my opportunity. Many of my teammates and my family – and yes, my teammates are like family to me – have been affected by cancer. I’ve lost both of my grandmothers – one who inspired me to dream huge dreams and the other that I never had a chance to get to know — to cancer. I’m not going to name them as it is there story to tell, but too many rowers that I know have had to fight –and I’m so fortunate to say – and beat cancer. Cancer doesn’t care about your age or your fitness.

My father-in-law has recently beaten his 2nd cancer with the cutting-edge science of stem cell treatment. I want to be part of the team that sees way more victories like his.

 

I would be so grateful if you would help me to recognize the 20th anniversary of something special – by doing something special. It’s ambitious, but so is Olympic gold and conquering cancer; my goal is to raise $20,000.

 

Just as every stroke made a difference, so does every donation. When we got home from the Olympics and traveled from coast to coast to coast, Canadians told us that they had been pulling for us. Was this you? Were you screaming at your TV, dreaming our dreams and willing us to win Olympic Gold. Did our win make you feel proud to be Canadian and inspired to try something that challenges you? I’m hoping that if this group would pull for us then, maybe can “pull” for us now. I’d be honoured if you would.

 

Here is my donation page if you’d like to help

http://www.conquercancer.ca/site/TR/Events/Toronto2016?px=4063795&pg=personal&fr_id=1561

 

Thank you.

ps – why Team BMO? It’s pretty simple, a friend asked me to join her team and the idea caught my imagination. 200km will be tough for me. These days I spend my time parenting not training. My cardiovascular strength seems okay, but my strength???… I’ve got some work to do in the next month.

UPDATE –  $23,475 raised!!!! 

Over 70 people, and their families helped me to recognize something special and more importantly achieve something special.
On July 11th and 12th, Deanah and I rode in the Ride to Conquer Cancer where over $17.3 million was raised for the Princes Margaret Cancer Centre. This is one of the top 5 cancer research centres in the world.

As you know, my goal was to raise $20,000 for cancer research; recognizing the 20th anniversary of the success of Canadian rowing at the Atlanta Olympics, particularly the 3rd Olympic Gold Medal that Kathleen Heddle and I won. This disease has effected too many friends/team mates and family members.

Through my supporters – I was able to raise $23,475 – I am so grateful. The widespread support I received was remarkable. Together, Deanah and I raised $26,675, we are so thankful.

The ride ended up being about 220k. 98 on Saturday and 122 Sunday. The first day – Toronto to Hamilton was an effort!! A huge head wind made it a total grind. Sunday was lovely. Almost all flat and nice roads which lends to chatting and getting to hear peoples stories.

That part of the event – hearing peoples stories – was incredible. From the opening ceremony/start we had tears in our eyes. We heard stories of loved ones lost and battles won. There were many cyclists with yellow flags indicating that they are survivors and along the roads there were hundreds of people cheering, some with signs of encouragement and thanks. One sign that sticks in my brain was “thank you for saving my life, Pat”. She was a survivor thanking the riders for raising so much money for PMCC.

She was thanking you.

Sincerely,
Marnie