Who can beat Germany?
The Blue Riband men’s eight final is the highlight of Thursday’s racing at the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia. Getting underway at 13:09 (CET) the crews are; Australia, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Poland.
Since the first World Rowing Cup in 2009, Germany has not lost a race internationally and the linking factor throughout these races has been coxswain Martin Sauer and coach Ralf Holtmeyer. When talking about his role as coxswain Sauer talks with passion. “I’m part of the crew,” says Sauer. “I want to be as close as possible to the crew because I need to feel how the crew feels. To disconnect wouldn’t work. The coach should be the one that keeps a distance from the crew.”
Germany has become the target. All five crews want to beat them and coxswain for Canada, Brian Price made his team’s intentions clear, “Yes, I certainly respect Germany but we are here to beat Germany, just like every boat here.” Price is the most experienced of the six coxswains. He is in his third Olympic cycle and comes into this race as reigning Olympic Champion.
Price says that his crew has been rebuilding since 2008 and has a lot of new young rowers in the boat. “We’ve got a young crew and it’s something that lured me back to this event,” says Price who came out of post-Beijing retirement this year.
The make-up of the racing programme has meant that all six finalists have a 24-hour turnaround between racing in the semifinal and racing the final. Both Price and Australia’s four seat Francis Hegerty saw it as not being an issue. Hegerty won bronze in the eight in 2010 and took Olympic silver in the four at Beijing.
“It’s something that we’ve prepared for,” says Hegerty who says they have known about the schedule for some time so that they planned for it in training.
“Our training has gone knowing that this is what we’d have to do,” adds Price, “and we are used to it. At the World Cup we go heat-rep-final in a row.”
All six crews in this final have qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games and Hegerty says that qualifying was the focus up to today. “It meant that the race today (semifinal) was one of the most stressful,” says Hegerty. “Definitely there’s relief now and it means that tomorrow is an opportunity. I would say that we’re more relaxed for the final. We have everything to gain out of the final.”
“In the past,” says Price, “we’ve wanted to win. Now we want to be as high on the medals podium as possible.”
The British eight’s aim is the beat the Germans. In 2010 they came close, finishing second at the World Rowing Championships. They have proved to have a powerful sprint at the end, even when they are down through the race.
The Netherlands continue to surprise and although they are yet to make the top of the medals podium in recent years, they have remained consistently in the medals.
Poland set their mind on qualifying a men’s eight for the Olympic Games some years ago and they finished fifth at the Beijing Olympics. The project now to win an Olympic medal became one step closer today as the crew realised their dream as they crossed in third place in today’s semifinal. In the final the pressure will be off them and there is no doubt they will be rowing with true heart.
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