The independent voice of rowing in Britain

Hammer Smith – up to no good in Lucerne

Posted by rowingvoice on July 13, 2014

Sunday 13 July 2014

Oswald drops a mal mot

_Q7T1365The International Rowing Federation staged a massive banquet at the Palace Hotel, Lucerne on 12 July to invest the Aussie oarsome Drew Ginn with the Keller Medal and to bid farewell to their president, Denis Oswald (right), after nearly a quarter of a century in the chair.

The guest list was stiff with Olympic movement blazerati including Jacques Rogge, former IOC president, and big cheeses from the Association of Olympic Summer Sports, the Paralympic Games and the like. New FISA president Jean-Christophe Rolland (far right) paid tribute to his predecessor and Matt Smith, the executive director (below, leaning away), presented Denis with a secretly compiled scrapbook of his life and times.

_Q7T1491Unfortunate, then, that in his otherwise chivalric reply, Denis revealed that he had had close discussions with Rolland before the election that elevated the Frenchman into office. FISA council members Trish Smith and John Boultbee, the unsuccessful candidates in the presidential election, were not amused.

This blip apart, the succession from Oswald to Rolland is sweetness and light compared with the poisonous days of Denis’s succession to Thomi Keller in 1989. Oswald had been secretary of FISA for 15 years on a promise, he claimed, that Keller would make way for him as president.

At the 1989 congress Keller, at the end of what Oswald hoped would be his final four-year term, was re-elected for another year, causing a bitter spat. Keller, a popular and charismatic leader, died suddenly a few months later, and Oswald was propelled into office. For some time he had to live with the whiff of treachery within the FISA hierarchy.

Musical coaches

The coaching merry-go-round continues to whizz on its jolly way, and the idea that you have to coach your own country is long gone.  So the Lucerne finals are serving up a British men’s eight coached by a German, a Russian men’s eight coached by a Brit who used to coach Canada, an Irish women’s sculler coached by a former Danish lightweight champion, and a Kiwi men’s pair coached by an Australian.  Meanwhile the Swiss are advertising for a new head coach and two peripatetic Aussies have moved again – Brian Richardson (ex-CAN coach) is heading up the Danish team, and talent ID guru Peter Shakespear, having rattled the AUS and GBR systems into shape, has hoofed it off to Canada.

Royal flush

One topic at Belgrade in May was the fistful of titles collected by Brits Alex Gregory and Helen Glover, who became, at that point, reigning Olympic, world, European, national 1x and Henley champions.  Glover missed HRR since it doesn’t have a women’s pairs event, so no longer has a full set, but Gregory swapped from the Grand to the Stewards’ Challenge Cup, and has now added Lucerne champion to his list, which is unmatched by any other current rower in the world, though Mahe Drysdale is very close.

Ginn’s honest tonic

_Q7T1284Drew Ginn, the amiable Aussie with three Olympic golds and a silver, brought his family to the Palace for his Keller Medal investiture, rowing’s top award named after the above-mentioned Thomi.

He gave a graceful speech in which he questioned why he, an individual, should be given this honour when all his success was achieved in crew boats, notably the Awesome Foursome and the pair with Jimmy Tomkins. Tomkins was awarded the Keller Medal when he retired in 2010.

Hammer Smith can confirm that boating-area rumours Ginn was considering a return to racing for Rio are emphatically not true.

The power of eight

Chat continues to swirl about the plans for a GreaterEight (only sweep oarsmen need apply), being created by Kiwi star Hamish Bond to challenge the scullers’ GreatVIII at this year’s Head of the Charles.  Apparently several national team coaches aren’t too happy about their best sweep oarsmen running away to Boston USA in the middle of October, but they are planning to do it anyway.  A reliable source says the top scullers are insisting that Hamish is only allowed to ask one sweep oarsman from each country – just as they do.  Who’s Bondy going to pick:  himself or Eric Murray?

Flippin’ ‘eck!

When the protocol chaps were announcing medals for Antarctica and Greenland in their rehearsal of award ceremonies at the World Cup on the Rotsee, a Slovenian sculler flipped at practice in the middle of the lake, right opposite the ceremonial pontoon. While the hapless lightweight disentangled himself from his boat and prepared to tow it to the shore, the rehearsal continued awarding medals to Greenland.

No rescue launch in sight, the swimmer struggled towards the pontoon with his boat. A couple of protocols helpfully grasped his oars and lifted the boat from the water, leaving the sodden sculler to climb out under his own steam. Nice to see the Rotsee has its priorities right.

Marlow to Moscow mentioned in dispatches

The only coach mentioned on World Rowing’s preview of World Cup III is Mike Spracklen – late of Marlow, Leander, Oxford, India, GB, USA, Canada etc. Now he’s coaching the Russian eight. His last employer, Rowing Canada, posted a complaint to FISA through performance director Peter Cookson suggesting that there were other deserving cases worth a mention at such a star studded regatta.


“We waste all winter in singles” — a member of the GB lightweight men’s four, shortly after coming in third behind the Kiwis (who also scull quite a bit) and the Danes (who don’t).












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