Ath­letes try their hand at row­ing


Athletics Weekly - - Contents - PIC­TURES: SAS / SPORTSBEAT

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.

Row­ing po­ten­tial

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


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

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