Our World Championship campaign began all the way back at the beginning of winter. Under the watchfull eye of coach Ellen randell, the crew of Miranda Bennett, Tara Kelly, Alice MacNamara and I pushed off the UTS pontoon for our first row together on the 7th May. As the only crew to remain in Sydney for the long cold winter there were quite a few sessions when the cold, wet or windy conditions made staying enthusiastic about training a big challenge. However, the promise a pre-worlds camp in the Italian sunshine, and the knowledge that we had a big job ahead of us to beat the reigning World Champions and record holders (China) kept us going. Just our luck that Sydney experienced one of its coldest ever winters! Throughout our preparations on the chilly waters of the Nepean gorge and SIRC we relied on comparisons to world best times and the ?prognostic? speeds at various stroke rates to monitor our progress. There is no hiding behind the numbers, and with two impellers, 2 stroke coaches and GPS mini max systems attatched to the boat, there where plently of numbers for Ellen to analyse! While we had clocked some promising speeds in Australia, it was a real confidence boost to finally get onto some warm water in Europe and be able to regularly hold over %100 speeds during our final preparations.
Being the only Australian crew to have not had a race at a World Cup in the lead up to the World Championships, we arrived in Varese for the pre-worlds camp as a very excited bunch of little people! After setting up the new Fillipi (which was a nice change from the oversized Empacher we had been using in Sydney), we made the most of the beautiful Lake Varese to polish off what had been a long, but solid and extremely well planned preparation. It was also great to finally feel like part of the Australian team at large,with all crews boating from Gavarate rowing club and mingling during meal times. As I had been ?retired? and off the rowing seen for a couple of years, it gave me a good opportunity to get to know lot of the younger new faces on the team as well as catch up with a few of the old ones!
From Varese we headed to Munich, and closer to the start line. With only one race between us and the final, the energy and expectation of finally linning up against our compeition added to the positive energy of our crew. We drew the Chinese, reigning world champions, and world best time holders, in the heat. Ellen had done some sneaky timing of the Chinese crew in training and reported that we had been clocking similar times on the blue waters of the Munich course. The challenge then was to stay focused on the processes that would send us down the course as fast as possible ? all the technical things that we knew made us fast and gave us ?speed for free?. Nothing too difficult ? stay long, flat, quite and clean ? easy!
The day of the heats dawned bright and clear as we head out for a pre-race paddle. With the positive energy and expectation building it seemed like quite a long wait until it was finally time to head up to the start line for real. As we had practiced not only our race plan, but also our warm?up sequence hundreds of times, our ?race? process started as soon as we pushed off the pontoon. 35 minutes later, secured in the starting gates, the starter went through the roll call. I remember thinking something along the lines of ?bring it on!? and then we were off and into the first few strokes.
Not daring to look out of the boat, it was a nice feeling to glance across at the 1000m mark and see that the Chinese crew where not going to be able to maintain our pace and that the other crews where already out of the picture. Going from strength to strength under Miranda?s race calls, we won the heat with the biggest winning marigin of all racing that day.
Winning the heat gave us a huge amount of confidence and also 6 days until our next race! We were able to watch the repechage to check out the form of the remaining qualifiers, and approached the final expecting
that GB (the form crew from the world cups and other heat winner), China and us would be fighting it out for the podium positions.
The week of the World Championships racing was spent putting in some final quality high intensity work and trying to keep improving a few technichal points, watching fellow aussie crews progress the reps and semi?s, and generally soaking in the colourful high energy atmosphere in the boat park. With over 120 countires represented at the regatta and a 250m long grandstand it was quite a spectacle.
On the eve of the Sunday final we had our last of many crew meetings. The ritual of analysis and planning over a cup of tea had become a standard part of our evening activities, and that night was charged with quiet expectation. It was a chance to acknowledge that all the hard work had been done, that our preparation was as good as it could have been, and that tommorrow it would be vital to maintain focus on the process of rowing well and not the outcome. As Tara said, it was time to hand in the assignment?..
The morning of the final we headed to the course for the second last time on the shuttle bus, plugged into ipods. In our pre-race row we included, as per the usual plan, a 500m flat out piece from a standing start. When we got of the water and carried the boat back to the Australian section of the boat sheds, Ellen had a cheeky grin on her face. She only just managed to wait until we had racked the boat before telling us that we had just clocked our fastest 500m piece ever! A good start to the day.
With 3 hours until weigh in, we checked our weight and headed back to the hotel. With 3kg to spare, we were able to start breakfast well before weigh in time, which is a real treat for a lightweight crew! It was then back on the shuttle bus yet again to weigh-in and start final race preparations.
Having become know as ?the smiley? crew during the Varese camp as we tended to smile a lot- because we were actually having fun a lot of the time!, we continued the trend on race day. Feeling strong, prepared and positive I am sure we hit the water smiling.
We pulled into the starting gates with a few minutes until race time. Time to take a few deep breaths and bring everything into to focus on the first couple of strokes. Having practiced our race profile so many times, all we had to do was stick to our guns and do what we had done well in training.
We had expected China and GB to out be fast, probably in front of us in the first 500m. Miranda called us into the 2nd 500m sticking to the plan and by the half way mark we had started edge away. The call for the halfway push came early as Miranda saw an opportunty to make a break on China and GB. With our ?wind? starting from 750m to go, we powered into the final quarter ? an unreal feeling to be surging toward the finish line and seeing other boats behind you.
Crossing the bubble line in first position was exhilarating. After the first few moments of gasping for air I looked up on the big screen to see a massive image of us winning being replayed in slow motion. It?s pretty awesome seeing a 3 storey image of yourself becoming World Champion!
So, I am pretty happy a few savvy coaches at Sydney University lured me back into the sport more seriously. It was one of the most enjoyable domestic seasons I have experienced, under the tutelage of AB and then Phil, and resulted in a tremendous outcome ? goes to show you that enjoyment has a big part to play in success!
Winning the World Championship was ultimately the product of considered planning and preparation and under the guidence of the unruffle-able Ellen Randell. Our crew dynamic was fantastic with each of us bringing a different element of stregnth to the boat. We also had a great team working with us in Nath Townsend (sports scientist ), Michael Hetherington (strength and conditioning), Natt Legge (GPS and Perfomance analyst), Nelson Santos (massuer), Richard Bennett (Sports Psych). Thanks to everyone who helped us get to Munich in top form