Competition of this level are not new for the Brest rowing channel; In 2009 it was the European Rowing Championships and in 2010 the World Rowing Junior Championships. 

The expectation from the young generation in general and from the European Championships in particular helps to pick the crew that will give the desired results.  

More crews and women's rowing
Senior coach of Belarus’s national rowing team, Anatoly Lebed thinks that there is a certain advantage to hosting the European Championship in Belarus.

“It allows us to enter more crews than usual. Not all the athletes’ level is high, but it is good for the development of rowing and motivation of the athletes. But we will not expand so much that we have athletes coming last,” says Lebed.

Lebed knows that there is good competition from Germany, Great Britain and Romania who strong in school rowing and some have a large monetary investment. In Belarus the investment is also good. The main thing is to manage money properly.

At this stage we mainly focus on women's rowing, says Lebed, because the Belarusian rowing ratio of men and women is about 35 by 65 per cent in favour of men.

2018 European Rowing Under 23 Championships, Brest, Belarus © Maria Kozhdan

Not to lose a young athlete is key
Lebed devotes his life to the Belarusian rowing and says that the youth team can often be at training camps, being "scattered" throughout the country.

“In the middle of the last month, athletes were preparing in three cities: Brest, Zaslavl and Gomel.”

Specialists discussing the prospects of the Belarusian team note that the interim period from the junior into adult sport is the important period for many reasons. But there are difficulties. There is a structure of children's schools and a school for those aiming for the Olympics. The interaction between the schools is well established but there is a large drop-out rate as some choose other paths in life. Also rowing is not an easy sport and not everyone is ready to put in the work. And then weight and height play big role in this sport. Rowing is associated with endurance and strength. It is necessary to wait, endure and work as the results will appear later.

Lebed says that among the rowers there are a lot who were born in countryside. He says the reason for this are that, “In cities many parents look narrowly and want their children to go to school, but in the countryside, parents do not mind that their children devote life to sport and train a lot.”

How to assemble a team
Whatever the sport is, it is not easy to create a team. But it is harder to assemble a team, where each person should decide in a fraction of a second and interact synchronously.

“There are different ways of creating a team,” says Lebled. “In general, our kind of rowing is more team sport, if compared to, say, kayaking. An eight has eight different people. A coach needs to choose a person, who sits ahead, who is in the middle, who is the eighth number that will set the rhythm of the race. And the seventh should support the eighth. Everyone in the boat should have a single rhythm. Only a good specialist is able to decide where the oarsman should be seated in a boat.”

Gomel Centre coach Alexander Khalyavko who formed the women’s four says he had a group of women that had known each other for a long time. “They went through many competitions and difficulties together. Fortunately, they are calm and ready to work. I noticed that it is better for them to work in a four rather than pairs and the results are better at this stage.”

What the rowers say
Anastasia Semenova and Daria Novikova row in the women’s four. They are both from Mogilev and have known each other for a long time. They started their sport path together with the help of the same coach. Both Semenova and Novikova believe that the main thing in rowing is the desire to train, which was instilled by the coach.

“An athlete has to restrain herself in some way, eat healthy and follow the schedule,” says Novikova. “But I like it. Sport is a part of life for me.”

Before the regatta in Brest, Novikova noted, “We are familiar with the rowing channel in Brest for a long time. There often blows the wind and weather is unpredictable. But it is not our first time there. There is a huge responsibility on us. We want to achieve the maximum result and not to let anyone down. Our parents will come, they will support us. It is necessary to show them of what we are really capable.”

Copy thanks to Sergey Solonkevich