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Pulling For Poland – Gold Medal Report

SUBC “Pulling” for Gold in Poland On 22 July 2004, five SUBC rowers and their coach set out for Europe. They were to spend the first two weeks of a three-week campaign in Brandenburg before traveling on to Poznan in Poland, the location of the 2004 U23 World Rowing Regatta.

On arrival at Frankfurt airport (26 hours after their departure) we boarded a domestic plane bound for Berlin where we were met by our Team Manager Michael Smith and bused to our accommodation in Brandenburg. Brandenburg is a small former East German city situated about 80km west of Berlin and dissected by numerous canals, waterways and lakes. The Regatta Center has a 2000m rowing/canoeing course with the last 1000m fully buoyed and a 600 seat grandstand located next to the finish tower. Brandenburg is a beautiful city but as with many former East German towns has suffered large population losses due to the closure of many of its traditional industries.

Uwe Philipp the Manager of the Regatta Center in Brandenburg was exceptionally helpful settling us into our hotel and outlining what facilities the Regatta Center had to offer. He also organised the supply of five coaching boats to our hotel harbor to einsure that the ten coaches on tour could relay knowledge to their respective charges with ease.

On the second evening of our tour we were met at the hotel jetty by a large ferryboat and taken on a tour of the city?s waterways while enjoying an incredible smorgasbord of local food. We were officially welcomed by the Lord Mayor of Brandenburg Dr Tiemann and the President of the Brandenburg Rowing Association Ewif Harmut. What an evening! The luxury of our hotel, beauty of our surrounds and incredible hospitality showered upon us by the locals set the scene for a splendid holiday. Not only that, we had our own personal physio come masseur, Judy Stenfeldt and doctor, Ian Belts at our ?beck and call?.

However, like true SUBC professionals we were quick to remember the unfinished business commitments we had in Poland. We spent the next eight days in camp mode enjoying some fast rowing interspersed by ultimate (a frisbee game), quiz nights and the occasional train ride into Berlin for necessary supplies and shopping sprees. In the middle of our training camp we were treated to a wonderful ?day out? by Willi Weber (Brandenburg Rowing Association) who organised a bus trip to Berlin. It was an informative day with visits to several castles and an organised tour of the German Reichstag (Parliament House), Brandenburg Gate and the International Headquarters of the Deutsche Bank. We were fortunate to be shown around the Reichstag by Dr Spillmann, the sitting Member for Brandenburg. A great day was had by all. Finally it was time – off to Poland to do battle!

We arrived in Poznan early afternoon following an extremely chilling four hour introduction to Polish driving and roads. Our accommodation in Poznan was great with all athletes in single rooms and only a 15 minute drive from the course. Food was also acceptable, the only downside (especially for coaches) being the poor quality coffee?. almost put me off for life! The course was exceptionally, well presented with a large two story grandstand next to the finish tower and plenty of boat racking and storage facilities directly opposite. It ran the length of a man made lake and was well buoyed and marked every 250m.

The Opening Ceremony was spectacular. Conducted in front of the grandstand it comprised the traditional athletes parade for all 54 countries attending the Championships followed by beautiful singing from the Polish National Choir and the obligatory speeches. The ceremony concluded with a fireworks display that ranked along side the Sydney Bi Centennial celebrations?..well not quite, but they were definitely extravagant for a rowing regatta. We were ready! Bring it on!

The race warm up for the heat was good, conditions strong head??Attention – GO!? The first 250m was tough and aggressive, out with the field, moved again through the second 250m but the Romanians and Germans were with us at the 500m. Held them through the third 250m and the Germans dropped back as we moved towards the 1000m. Solid push at the 1000m and we moved out three seats on the Romanians. One length clear at the 1500m and the Romanians switch off and let us have the win. Just the start we had hoped for.

Finals day – .this is it! Quietly confident but nervous – we?ve done the work, are well prepared and confident with our race strategy. The day drags on – come on – let?s get it over with! Finally, race warm up time – warm up goes well. Unexpectedly a storm rolls in, the rain pours down and the wind blows everything into a frenzy forcing the organisers call a 30 minute30-minute delay to the racing. No time to go back to the boating area so paddle several circuits of the warm up bay to keep our body heat up in the rain and wind. The conditions improve as the storm moves through and by our start time there is slight rain with a holding head wind down the course. We need to get out well -?Attention – GO!?. We are out with the field, a canvas down on Romania, Germany and Great Britain through the 250m, boat not quite set. Rhythm comes more easily as we move through the 500m in third place. We hold the field well through the second quarter crossing the half way mark in second place along side Romania, Germany and Great Britain all within half a boat length. This is it! ?lets go!? A big crew effort and we ?punch? three quarters of a length into the field as we ?wind? for home then consolidate our position at the front of the pack. We have earned a 2.3 second advantage at the 1500m mark on Great Britain and Germany who are locked together with Romania a canvas further back. Still two second at the 1750m – surely it?s ours?.here they come?lets go?..nothing left?there coming?.You Beauty!! Just got there!!

Finals results: 1st AUS 6:33.00, 2nd GBR 6:33.19, 3rd GER 6:33.83, 4th ROM 6:37.22, 5th RUS 6:42.28, 6th POL 6:42.35.

World Champions: Bow Ian Allsop, 2 Fergus Pragnal, 3 Michael Valli, Stroke Matthew Ryan and Cox Robert Williams.

We thank the many supporters and sponsors of our campaign, without whom our success would not have been possible.

Andrew Randell, COACH

Ps Nicholas Hudson (SUBC) was a member of the BRONZE medal winning U23M4X on the same tour.



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