FISA Rowing World Championships 2014 in Amsterdam

IAMSTERDAM welcomed us to the Bosbaan, where the 2014 Rowing World Champs took place. This course, meaning “Bush Course” is deeply dug in Holland’s rowing tradition and by ‘dug’ I really mean with shovels. Because of World War I, in 1936, this course was built by hand to give people work and it housed five lanes. In 1954 Amsterdam was to host the European Rowing Championships and widened the lanes to six. As rowing grew in Holland, so to did the Bosbaan, and in 2001 it underwent a huge renovation, to eight lanes and 2200m in length. This time modern machinery did the job.

Roger Barrow, our High Performance coach and director, informed us that the 2014 World Champs held the largest entries he had ever seen, and on such a narrow course, the crews boats made noticeable waves. From the outside onlookers it seems calm conditions, however on the water, we were bouncing around and complaining about the wake as only rowers know how to do.

We quickly settled in our pre-race training routine, and no cold weather and rain damped our spirits. The dutch news informed us that it was the coldest temperatures ever experienced in Holland for the ‘Summer’ month of August. One afternoon, our team doc, Danielle and I went for a brisk walk, which became a near run for home in pouring rain towards the end. Kirstin and I were left with wearing full long kit, tights and long sleeves, because the sun was not giving us any love.

Now on to the racing, the reason why we were there: Everyone had their heat on Sunday. We were all funneled down the lanes one event after another. The Women’s pair started us off well with a win in their heat. The Men’s pair followed, and so on with the Men’s Lightweight Double, then us (Lightweight Women’s Double), the Lightweight Women’s Single, the Men’s Coxed Pair, and then the Adaptives.

We continued on with another win in our semi-final putting us in the prestigious A-(top) final. But just like that, crews that were in the A-final in Luzern were now in B-Finals, and still to show how tight the field is, crews that were in A-finals just got the wrong side of the line and slipped into C-finals.

Six days from the first heat, we were now lined up to race our top final in the afternoon. All finals now laid out in the p.m. hours for tv coverage and static umpiring was starting to be introduced. A tv camera whizzed above us near the last 500m and crowds were building up on the grass and grandstands. We had Italy, Australia, then us (RSA), New Zealand, Canada and China. We had all raced each other in the heats and semi’s but the final always is a whole new game. Kirst and I were out and lead almost to the 1000m. We held on hard and fought and fought to keep there and hold. But in the last seconds of the meters, China sneaked past us, to push us into the wooden medal, (4th) and New Zealand claimed gold, Canada silver with their speedy end sprint and China third from the end lane. That lane seemed to be magic, with our Men’s pair winning bronze and the highlight being the Lightweight Men’s Double not only winning from that very lane, but also taking a new World Record Time! It was a moment of hands to the heart center, as Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica was played while the South African flag rised to commemorate the win.

I once again got to catch up with many of my Dutch friends made from racing in my first Holland Beker in 2010 where I got to meet Cas Rekers (inventor of the Rowperfect) and meeting his family. I got to spend time with Frans Göbel (famous Dutch Lightweight sculler) and Ineke as well as Robbrecht. I love the Bosbaan, and running the trails makes it my favourite course. Just being in the Netherlands, with stoepwaffels, eko-plaza, bikes, boats, rain, wind and its language so close to afrikaans, is almost home to me. Then it’s windy and rains one to many, and I’m ready to go home.