Matt Gotrel: Back on track...
The last race before Rio...
Back on track..
After the disappointment of Lucerne, we headed to Poznan, Poland with a real point to prove. Not only to ourselves but to the rest of the world. We needed to show that we are better than we have shown thus far. We raced at Poznan last year for the European Championships, it's a great place to row and we stay at a hotel right next to the course at the 1000m mark, so it's very handy.
View from the boat park looking at the finish line in Poznan, Poland
With it being the last race before Rio many teams chose not to attend. In the mens 8 we were missing 2 crews that had beaten us in Lucerne - The Dutch and Americans. But we still had the Germans to contend with, who themselves were looking to bounce back after a loss to the Dutch in Lucerne.
With only 5 entries we had a preliminary race to decide the lanes for the final. Although there isn't a result on the line all boats want to go out to win. For us it was a familiar story, we were left for dead by the Germans and the New Zealanders. Another case of not being able to replicate our fast work in training on the big stage.
We had just 24 hours before the final, and we had 3 seconds to make up on the Germans who had had an easy run to the finish.
We sat down as a crew and had some fairly frank discussions about how we were going to turn this around. This was our last chance to race before the Olympics and we needed to get a race under our belt with a performance that we knew was honest to our ability.
The team walking down to the course
So it was time for the final. The result of our discussions the night before gave us one objective for the race, one thing for us all to work on. Making sure we move the boat as much as possible every stroke, sounds simple, and fairly obvious, but it was something we all needed to buy into.
When the green light went there was an undeniable sense of raw power, less dancing around trying to look good or trying to feel our way into the race - this was what we needed, playing to our strengths and getting our legs driving the boat forwards.
We had a good start and went out to the front of the pack with the Germans. As the race unfolded it was clear that it had become a two horse race between us and the Germans. Two very different horses mind you. The best way to describe it is to imagine a bike. The Germans were in a high gear, spinning along and we were in a big low gear grinding out each stroke. The outcome though was very similar and we were matching each other for pace, we were perhaps 3-4 strokes a minute lower than them but moving the same speed. Finally we had found something. It was very tight, neither boat was giving anything away, and it was the final stages that made the difference. I remember thinking “we can do this all day!” we were just sat there holding all their pushes and putting them under pressure, but it never felt like we were tiring. Our strength soon became our weakness, we were so stuck in the solid grinding rhythm that when the Germans started to sprint for the line we couldn't get out of it, couldn't change gear. The Germans jumped out to about a canvas lead and we held them there for the rest of the sprint.
We grunted our way through to the finish line and lost out by half a second. Much better! But feeling like we had a bit more in the tank. The rest of the field had been blown away and were 6 seconds behind.
So progress, at last. We now have to take the lessons we learned from Poznan to find that little bit more, but it was a huge boost for us and doing it the way we did brings a lot of confidence. We now head off for a month of training camps.
The next time we race will be the Olympic Games in Rio!
All smiles waiting for the medal ceremony, with coach - Jurgen Grobler