Chungju feature: Manson and Arms - Geared up for World Rowing Championships
Sydney – Eton Dorney – Lucerne. The 2013 Samsung World Rowing Cup series went from one side of the globe to the other and took in two Olympic regatta courses on the journey.
The series opened at the earlier time of March in Sydney, Australia for the first time in World Cup history. Taking advantage of Sydney’s summer weather and of the Sydney 2000 Olympic regatta course, the regatta saw some new crew combinations testing the international rowing waters.
Throughout the season these combinations reconfigured or solidified and recorded a number of significant performances. One of the notable performances came in the unleashing of New Zealanders Michael Arms and Robert Manson in the men’s double sculls.
Moving from the 2012 Olympic men’s quadruple sculls into the double turned out to be fortuitous for Arms and Manson and, at the Sydney World Rowing Cup, perhaps with a little surprise, Manson and Arms won. They haven’t lost a race since including winning and setting a course record at Great Britain’s Henley Royal Regatta.
After the final World Rowing Cup in Lucerne (SUI), the duo headed back to New Zealand to prepare for the World Rowing Championships in Chungju, Korea.
Manson, 23, came into the sport after his younger brother, Karl, joined. “I didn't want him to get fitter or stronger than me so I started too,” says Manson who did equestrian, show jumping and eventing prior to rowing. Both of his parents rowed and his mother now coaches.
Manson, at 189cm is the shorter of the duo. He grew up in small-town New Zealand and, like his predecessor and former under-23 World Champion partner Joseph Sullivan, Manson has a quiet, understated manner.
Arms, 23, in contrast, was scouted by the high school coach as a 13-year-old because of his height. “It wasn't until I’d finished swimming and playing cricket, a year later that I decided to give rowing a go.” Arms describes having a very active childhood and he has a brother who is a New Zealand representative in football. Just shy of 2m tall, Arms is the more outspoken of the duo. He hails from New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland and comes across with much self-confidence.
Initially Manson and Arms thought they would be back in the quad this season, but when the New Zealand rowing selectors tested them in a double at trials, they went fast together. The selectors had a new combination to follow the Olympic Champion double of Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan.
Prior to these trials Manson and Arms say that they never trained in a double together but they figure that the rhythm that they picked up in the quad must have helped as they clicked immediately. Their current coach, Calvin Ferguson follows a similar training regime to the one they used in 2012 with this year’s sparring partners the Olympic Champion pair of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray. “Their steady speeds make them great training partners,” says Arms. “We both push each other hard in training and we love to give them a good run for their money in racing.”
Both Manson and Arms say the Lucerne World Rowing Cup as their favourite race so far this season. “I think Lucerne was our best race so far so that makes it my favourite,” says Manson. “When I first started rowing I would stay up all night to watch the World Cups on TV, so now to have won there is pretty cool. The competition was the toughest of the three World Cups with all of the top crews there which also made it more memorable.”
“My partner, Zoe Stevenson, is part of the NZ women’s double - she was in the final following ours at Lucerne,” says Arms. “I found myself getting nervous all over again and watching her do well as Robbie and I were about to hop on the podium would have to be a highlight.”
The duo says that coach Ferguson never compares them to their Olympic Champion predecessors in the double and, they say, they can only hope to replicate the famous Cohen-Sullivan finishing sprint. Their racing style instead is a lot more consistent. “We tend to rate quite high so we just come out of the start and don't really settle.”
Competitive with each other the duo answer cautiously on who is the fastest in the single: “Ooh touchy question!” is the reply. “Mike was a foot faster in the single at the National Champs but Robbie was a second faster on the erg at trials so we're quite evenly matched and we’re constantly trying to outdo each other in one way or another.”
Both say they are looking forward to the World Rowing Championships. “We want to cap off what has been a very enjoyable season so far.”
Manson and Arms will begin racing at the World Rowing Championships in the heats on Monday 26 August with finals being raced on Sunday 1 September 2013.