World Record times and world fastest times are exciting milestones in any sport. Rowing has had some great moments. Many of these are advanced in small increments, but there comes a time when a massive leap forward happens.
Sometimes that’s due to technology or equipment – think the sliding rigger, carbon oars and kevlar boats.
Sometimes it’s due to perfect conditions – Luzern – or a strong tail wind – World Champs in Seville 2002.
Drew Ginn writing on his “Rudderfish” blog talks about the current mens pair rivalry as a possible future beater of the 6:10 milestone.
In rowing I have experienced this and continued to be amazed at the ongoing improvements. Every 4 – 6 years the World’s Best times seems to surge forward. It is as if bottle necks are created by athletes and perceptions of what’s possible or who can be beaten or not. Obvious environmental conditions play a huge part and it is once every few years the weather at a regatta really turns it on.
At this stage two boat classes I have been involved in that come to mind.
The pair mark went from 6.20+ to sub 6.19 with GB dominating the event from 1991-1996. The a number of crews did 19’s for many years including our pair with James and I. Then in 2002 in Seville with everything dialed in GB went 6.14. A huge jump and now I suspect that the NZ and GB crews are ready when the conditions are right to go sub 6.10. Personally with Duncan I felt in 2007-08 that we would have been capable of sub 6.10 but it wasn’t to be. So how fast can the Kiwi’s and Poms go? I sense that in the next two years one of them will crack 6.10 and even lower the mark to 6.08 possibly.
In the four I recall the original Oarsome Foursome improving the mark to 5.52 with the distinct style on and off the water. Then the Italians in 1994 went 5.48 which was huge and the way they did it was impressive. It had the Austalian based four scratching there head a little at the time when I joined them. Much talk was about how to approach racing the four when crews like the Italians had moved on from the 1992 period. Then in the lead up to 2000 the fours went 5.45 and by 2002 and yes Seville again the German’s and GB crews went 5.41. Wow, was what I remember think that day. I had just rowed a poor race to get fourth with James in 6.16 when Matt and James did that 6.14. Then we saw the fours fly down the course.
So in 10 years the four improved over 10sec and the pair about 8sec. It is assumed oars made a difference. Ideas around training and the approach to racing certainly must have advanced. More importantly I feel it is the expectation and standards being focused on daily made the greatest difference. The athlete involved in rowing, cycling, running etc all have one thing in common when improving and going beyond these limits or marks. They believed they could go faster. This belief was fostered daily and fueled by competition. It’s inspiring stuff to consider just how far we can go.