Athletes try their hand at rowing
MORGAN LAKE TESTS THE WATER TO SEE WHETHER SHE CAN BECOME AN OLYMPIC ROWER, WRITES JOHN SHEPHERD
ROWING is one of Team GB’s most successful sports – with Steve Redgrave, Helen Glover (who was a junior cross-country international runner in her youth) and Matthew Pinsent becoming household names – and the sport wants to keep producing these icons and enjoying world dominance.
Like athletics, data is key to assessing performance and adapting training. However, in one big respect rowing is potentially light years ahead of athletics and that’s in the field of talent ID.
British Rowing runs what is known as the ALP (Athlete Longitudinal Project) project with SAS (the official analytics partner) and together they have created some software which enables the sport to access the current and historical data of all its squad members much more quickly than it previously could. This data is, for example, used to speed up talent progression and identify potential talent.
Moe Sbihi, the world,
Olympic and European champion, is one of a current crop of GB rowers who were picked up through the project. Sbihi was at a recent, very special talent ID day where London 2012 gold-winning long jumper Greg Rutherford and Lake were put through a battery of sometimes gruelling tests to see whether they had what it takes to become a rower.
So, what did the athletes and rowing coaches and rowers in attendance and in particular Lake think about their rowing potential? I asked the No.2 ranked British female high jumper of all-time what the hardest part of the day was and she said: “It was using a cycle and arm ergometer (Schwinn bike) … arm strength is definitely not my strength, so that was horrible.”
Consequently, the athlete admitted that she now has a new-found respect for rowers.
So, what were the tests that Lake and Rutherford were subjected to? Lake explained that the day included various tests designed to see how much rowing aptitude the athletes had. “Well, we started with normal measurements, so weight, height and then arm span,” she explained. “I definitely had the height and the arm span to be a rower. Then it was straight into the arm press and leg press.
“Interestingly my arm press was actually closer to the goal (target set by British Rowing) that was wanted compared to my leg press.”
However, the high jumper did point out that she had a bit of a knee niggle and so could not press as hard as she wanted. Jokingly she then added: “I almost want a re-match of that at some point.”
Like most rowers the athletes were also tested on a machine that the sport’s athletes love to hate – the Concept2 ergometer. Surprisingly Lake explained: “That was fun! It was a 250m all-out time trial … and then we did a 750m three-person relay. And our team won!”
I ask how she felt at the end of the 250m. Rowers are known for ‘emptying the tank’ and literally collapsing with the very last pull of the oar in a 2000m race. “No, I was okay, but I think a 500m would have been a different story,” said Lake.
Holly Hill, one of the other rowers in attendance on the day and a European silver medallist, commented on the athletes: “It was enjoyable watching Greg and Morgan go through the testing and remembering what I
did six years ago – you see that it hasn’t got any easier and they did a really good job.”
I ask whether Lake’s used or uses a Concept2 in her training. “I used to when I was at school, but I haven’t since I was about 12.”
My interest is piqued, did Lake use to row then? It turns out she did when she was at school and not just on machines. However, she explained that she didn’t like the idea of capsizing in cold water, so she quickly changed sports!
So, putting aside early childhood potential cold water splashes, could Lake make a rower and does she have the potential physiologically? “Yes, definitely with the arms and the height,” she said, although more realistically she added, “but not on the actual power testing. My aerobic capacity needs a bit of work if I wanted to be a rower, so it’s probably not the sport I’m going into next if I was to move but it was interesting seeing the results.”
It seemed like Lake really enjoyed the day though. With all the experts from rowing around did she get the best advice as to how she could be a better rower (if she wanted to). The athlete explained, for example, that there was a lot more technique required for the ergo than she’d imagined. “I forgot that I had legs and that I should have probably used them and I pulled too much with my arms,” she said.
Making it as a rower
There will be many athletes out there who could make great rowers. What advice does Lake have for any wanting to move sport, and does she think any events would be particularly suitable? After consideration, she replied: “I think a multieventer would be good to be honest … I think it’s all about power and aerobic capacity.”
On British Rowing and SAS’s partnership she said: “I think it’s always good to see data and see how you can improve. It’s interesting to see the analysis from people who have achieved great things and compare it to how they did earlier in their career.”
And summing up her overall experience Lake said: “I think the whole testing day with SAS was really interesting. In athletics you don’t have that tickable testing bit … if you have jumped
that high off of two feet then you’re going to be a high jumper … we don’t have that sort of diagnostic testing. Yeah, it was really interesting how they are doing it in rowing.”
Morgan Lake was speaking at a SAS event at British Rowing’s training base in Caversham, Berkshire. SAS – the leader in analytics software and services – is the official analytics partner of British Rowing
BRITISH ROWING SAS ALP
Over the last year, SAS has been building a software architecture to allow British Rowing to improve their data analytics capacity and capabilities.
Now in place, the architecture will afford British Rowing better accessibility and visibility of data related to the development pathway programmes (including the World Class Start programme).
Over time, this will allow the team to optimise and enhance the team’s already successful pathway programmes such as World Class Start.
The software architecture goes beyond just performance though and is also helping British Rowing refine their grassroots competition framework and better understand and analyse membership and participation in rowing.
With SAS’ analytics software, British Rowing may be able to identify:
Specific areas for training interventions during the development phase of a rower with international aspirations.
Coaches or specific programmes/clubs which consistently help rowers to a level to make the GB Rowing Team squad.
Additional factors that high performing rowers consistently score well on (helping early detection of high flyers potentially in untapped areas).
Can athletes makes rowers? Morgan Lake is about todiscover the truth
Learning to row: Morgan Lake gets ready on the erg
Morgan Lake: Commonwealth high jump silver medallist
Morgan Lake and Greg Rutherford enjoyed the day but it’s unlikely we’ll see them in a rowing boat soon
Morgan Lake analyses her data