2015 – The Year In Review
What with one thing and another, 2015 proved to be an exceptionally busy year for the team. So much so, regular news items did not quite materialize. However we are keen to keep a record of what we have been up to, so here it goes. We competed in 44 races this year, including the Worlds, the European Open and two episodes of the British Championships, with a reasonable amount of success that the team can be content with. Those races yielded 39 medals of which 31 were gold, 7 were silver and 1 was bronze.
As always the highlight of the year was the annual pilgrimage to Boston. The one downside of being an international team is that we only get to meet up en mass once a year for the World Championships. Smaller gatherings occur at local competitions, but it is never quite the same as having everyone together. Boston brought mixed fortunes. Having won 2 golds and 2 silvers in 2014, we were keen to better the haul in 2015, but it was not to be. It can be easy to lose sight of just how hard winning world medals can be, such is the competition. The morning session went beautifully to plan (which hardly ever happens), with Shirley Godkin picking up a silver, and James Howard winning his first hammer – always a special moment. For the second year in a row Clare Busst arrived on the start line plagued by bad luck (a pulled back muscle in 2014; a chest infection in 2015), but managed to get the job done to win her second hammer (having picked up the Open Lightweight and LW30-39 golds at the 2015 British Championships four weeks beforehand).
The afternoon was not quite what we had hoped for. Both Jordan Weide and Paul Buchanan had a horrible time running into the competition and we knew things were not quite set up as we would have liked – two potential medals rapidly become none. Jen Howse saved the session with a well earned silver. We normally end our season in Boston, but we decided to send a small team of four athletes to the English for a low-pressure post-season trip to see whether we could squeeze just a little more out from the training peak – four golds made it a worthwhile venture, although the team was demonstrably tired. Carolyn Gersh rowed a good final race of the season picking up gold in the W30-39 (there being no lightweight event on offer).
A couple of weeks break (“break” being a relative concept), and then back to the grind to get ready for Boston 2016, then some 10 months away. The off-season brought its typical spectrum of good and bad. On the positive side, we received more inquiries than ever before about trialing for the team, albeit with it came some reality checks as to just what is involved to get yourself into medal-winning contention. However we found one or two very strong additions or potential additions to the team. At the same time, we were sad to lose Ollie Osborne who after years of committed service to the team ultimately succumbed to low back difficulties and hung up his erg to become coach to the Royal Navy team – we miss him and look forward to catching up with him at future events.
As a team we try to do one charity event each year. This year Clare Busst materially organised and participated in the Row For A Wish event in Bournemouth where she attempted to break the LW30-39 marathon world record of 2h 59m 23.0s set some 14 years ago. Preparation went smoothly enough (team code for “we were beset with problems on a near weekly basis, but dealt with them”) and come the day we had things under control. An aggressive first hour built up a very comfortable lead, albeit the last 30minutes presented its challenges, but Clare’s time of 2h 54m 23.0s beat the record by precisely 5 minutes. An opportunity for an out-of-season competition presented itself with a 5,000m race in Devon which Clare used as an opportunity to set a new British Record of 18:44.4 – a well organised event and a useful addition to the race calendar. At about the same time, Shirley Godkin and Jaime Hutter were competing in the South Island Masters Games in New Zealand, racing over 2,000m, 1,000m, 500m and 100, (and picking up 7 golds and a silver between them).
It was over the summer that Paul Buchanan’s luck went from bad to worse and by August there was no option left but for Paul to have a microdiscectomy, resulting in the removal of 30-40% of one of his discs in his lower back. With the erg put firmly out of reach by his surgeon, the road back was going to be a long one. If anyone can do it, Paul can, but it is going to take time.
With various athletes having to contend with a range of challenges (family and work quite rightly taking priority over rowing), the focus was set primarily on Boston with a more conservative approach to racing elsewhere in the 2015/16 season. However we sent a small team of three athletes to the 2015/16 British Championships with comforting results. Paul Brew produced a decent showing to win the M50-54 and new team member Justine Reston put down a marker of intent in the LW40-49 taking gold by 16 seconds. James Howard had been contending with a persistent rib injury but put up a great fight in the LM50-54 to take bronze. So as the calendar year draws to a close once again we find ourselves 2 months away from the World Championships. Who knows what this year’s competition will bring. However of two things we can be quite certain – it won’t be easy; it will be fun.