Rio was a success for the Australian Rowing team. Kim Brennan won a gold in the women’s single sculls competition, while the men’s four team captured silver. At the Paralympics, Australia’s Erik Horrie, also captured a silver in the single sculls.
The Aussies will have a young team coming to Sarasota-Bradenton this fall, but the team’s Performance Director, Bernard Savage and Team Manager, Wayne Diplock, see that as an advantage. We spoke to the two during a recent site visit to Nathan Benderson Park.
Wayne, I know you have been to Nathan Benderson Park in the past, but Bernard, what are your first impressions.
Bernard: It has come a long way. The Finish Tower is going to be a pretty impressive piece or architecture when it’s completed. The course is and the facilities are going to be really good in competition mode. I think we are going to be very comfortable here.
How excited are the Australian athletes and coaches to come to the United States?
Wayne: Coming to the United States is different for most of our athletes because most of the international rowing takes place in Europe. To do something in the U.S. is unique. I think the athletes are looking forward to doing something different, so they are really excited.
Wayne, what was your reaction when Kim Brennan won gold last summer in Rio?
Wayne: It was enormous happiness and exhilaration for her. From winning in 2013 and then getting beat in 2014, getting the job done in 2015 and 2016 was pretty extraordinary.
How popular is rowing in Australia?
Wayne: At our school level, which would be the high school level in the United States, we have a very strong boys and girls rowing program in Australia. It’s very popular at that level. We don’t have the transition from high school into college like the U.S. does, which I think is a big part of the strength of rowing in the United States. Rowing has done consistently well at the Olympic and World Championship level and we get some good public recognition anytime the Olympics come around. We manage to do reasonably well.
Is there a big rowing rivalry between Australia and your neighbors in New Zealand?
Wayne: There is a friendly rivalry. We are neighbors and I suppose we’ve developed an affiliation with each other because we are so close.
Bernard: At this level, while there is a little bit of that banter and the friendly rivalry between the two countries, the athletes are aware that if they focus on just one particular athlete, they are forgetting about the rest of the world and you have to beat everyone in the world, not just a New Zealander.
What are the athletes and coaches most looking forward to during the 2017 World Rowing Championships?
Bernard: I’m personally excited because I think it gives us a competitive advantage. Like New Zealand and the Americans, we travel every year to get to places. The European nations might drive to the different venue locations and they don’t particularly have to fly. For us, this is nothing different. I think from that perspective it provides us with an advantage.
Which Australian rowers should we keep an eye on at the World Rowing Championships?
Bernard: That’s tough because we have a number of Olympians from last year that are taking a year off to reconnect with their studies and personal lives. We are going to have a very young team. I think we have some opportunities there for our athletes to perform very, very well.
Is there an advantage to having a younger team? Are they hungrier to win?
Bernard: They certainly are looking to take advantage of the opportunity that has been presented to them. For us, building through Tokyo and beyond, it does provide a good opportunity for us to have a really young team, which will progress nicely. If there’s one negative to it, it’s lack of competitive international experience, which is something that provides some stability to the group.