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Rowing stroke rates rise at the Worlds

The first World Championship of the new Olympic cycle 2017 was in Sarasota, USA. Moderate weather conditions allowed … read more

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The first World Championship of the new Olympic cycle 2017 was in Sarasota, USA. Moderate weather conditions allowed results close to the long-term trend (Fig.1): the average speed of the winning crews was 13th fastest over the past 25 years.

The general trend shows a slow growth of the winners’ speed at 0.37% per year. The highest growth was still found in both eights and lightweight doubles (RBN 2016/08), the slowest – in open sculling events:

Stroke rates much higher

This year revealed a dramatic increase of the racing stroke rate, where the average winners value increased from 37.1spm in 2010 and 37.6 in 2014, up to 39.1spm this year (Fig.2). The highest growth was found in the men’s sweep categories (+3.2spm) and lightweights (+2.3spm); the lowest growth was in men’s sculling (+1.4spm) and women’s sweep (+0.6spm). Time will show if this is long term trend, or just a one off.

The following table shows the average stroke rate over 2km in the A finals (GPS data of M4x was missing and replaced with the data from semis):

The average stroke rate in the winning crews was the highest among all finalists, which is different from the previous year, where the winners didn’t have a significant difference in stroke rate (RBN 2016/08).

Analysis of the race strategy using our traditional method (RBN 2003/07) has shown that the winners had the lowest variation of speed among all finalists: the winners spread their efforts the most evenly throughout the race, with a relatively slower first 500m and a faster middle section.

The above conclusion can be seen in more detail using the 25m splits data, which became available this year (Fig.3 shows the average data in the 14 new Olympic categories + the recently excluded LM4-). The winners had a distinctively higher speed in the middle of the race, which was achieved by means of a higher stroke rate.

Effective Work per Stroke (EWpS) in the winners and silver medallists was the most evenly distributed: it was lower during the first 500m, but higher during the second half of the race:

This could be explained by two reasons, or a combination of the two:

  1. The winners didn’t push too hard at the start, but rated higher.
  2. The winners had better muscle properties, allowing them to maintain higher force and stroke length at the end of the race.

©2017 Dr. Valery

About Rebecca Caroe
Rebecca is the host of RowingChat podcast and is a masters athlete and coach. Passionate about helping others enjoy the sport as much as she does. View all posts from Rebecca Caroe

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