Video Review: Inside the race with Iztok Cop
World Rowing’s video library is available to everyone. Have a look back through the archives and watch the final of the 2007 World Rowing Championships in Munich (GER) - the final that also served as a qualifier for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
Cop and Spik became Olympic Champions in this event at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and then went on to win silver at the Athens 2004 Olympics. In 2007 they were gearing up for another Olympic campaign.
Cop chose to talk through his 2007 race as one of the most memorable moments of his remarkable career that spanned more than two decades.
Why this race? This is one of three important races in my career. I came to race it with low expectations. We were having trouble making the boat run, so the goal was just to qualify for the Olympics. I remember the last session before the heats. We did a burst of five strokes and we got it right. We were lucky that we remembered that feeling and during the heats we did alright. After the quarterfinals I was sure we could get a medal and after the semifinals I was sure we could win the race, even though I was sure there wouldn't be much between the four top crews.
At the start: I was thinking we just need to try and get it right. These are the last nervous moments. I don't show it, but people close to me know I'm not good company a couple of days before a big race. The more nervous I get the better I perform. I take advantage of the adrenalin rush.
I was still a little scared that we didn't yet have that rhythm. Physically we were fit and I knew we could save a lot for the finish.
Coming out of the start: The start was not a problem. Luka was strong and explosive at the start. I kept a stroke coach in the boat to prevent the rate going down in the middle of the race.
After 20 strokes: We tried to get into a rhythm and not to continue to sprint like hell.
500m in: I just wanted to be in touch and after 500m everyone did a push. We always did a push at 500m and then got into cruising speed. It's always a point where we could get an advantage. For me, it was important that we were controlling the pace and we had managed to get in front.
We had sat down the day before and made a race plan. I would go through all of the results of the finalists through the heats and semis, try to figure out how they race, look at their strengths and weaknesses, and then plan our race. I wanted to make it so others would have to keep up with us.
1500m: Great Britain, France and Estonia were closing, but I was so confident. I saw Estonia coming back but I knew by this part of the race that we had it. I was thinking 'don't panic, go by your own race plan.' I saw Estonia coming but there was only 200m to go and I was sure they had spent their energy.
I was surprised by the French and only looking at the race later did I realise how close they were. Still I remember we were always confident. When you know you've got it you don't panic or react. It has not been very often that I was so confident.
I had the feeling that we'd won and when I've had that feeling I've always been right. That's why I've chosen this as one of my best races. I had maybe two or three strokes of energy left. We'd used all our energy. Ten minutes after the race I still couldn't talk to journalists. Now that I've retired these are the races that I miss. These are the moments that I remember even if the results weren't good.
I like great performances more than great results, especially toward the end of my career. So, just a gold medal is not enough.
How did it work in the boat between you and Luka? I'd do the calling because I'm sure stroke can feel much better. We generally knew the plan, but sometimes it would change - maybe going a few strokes earlier or later. It's important to trust each other even if you disagree with the call.
For me it was always a good sign if Luka would say something (encouraging) just before the finish so I'd know he had the power.
We would sit down with the coach, but we'd all say our ideas and then make a plan that we'd all agree with. Most people think it's stupid that I read all of the results, but it was important for me to work out the pattern. Very often you can figure out what other crews are doing and the strength of their finish.