Maldives Rowing Volunteer
 
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Well Hasna fell in twice so the underwater sculling award goes to her. The first time was just near the landing stage, she was rescued (albeit at snail’s pace) and brought back to us beaming from ear to ear to announce the water was COLD but ok once you were used to it. Water here in Addu is a constant 30 degrees. The second time she fell in was up above the start in the warm up loop before her heat. Another delightful day – 20kph head wind chopping the water nicely for the 45kg rowers! Again she got rescued (her coach being a typical coach didn’t notice a thing), demanded to be put back in her single and got herself to the start line and raced her heat. Needless to say she shivered the whole way down and was still shivering when she pulled into the landing stage to announce she’d fallen in. At which point I stuck her on my back (there was an issue with shoes and boxes and translation problems which meant hers were nowhere to be found) and ran back to our tent to get her changed and onto an erg. Luckily, learning from the previous dousing I’d been carrying my scarf around as an extra head covering for her in case she fell in again. So this time she was fully dry. Hot coffee and food soon sorted her out!

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Sharu-u cut his finger doing a practice start and then got mad at me when I told him to quit complaining and finish the last 4km - if he could not see the bone he was obviously not going to die. Well he set off in a huff and his stonehearted coach peddled alongside to take rates during his pieces. Sarey had gone ahead to keep an eye on Hasna as the issue with the finger meant she’d put about 1km on Sharu-u. Well i was cycling along and thought ‘ooh I haven’t looked where I’m going for a while’. Turned to look and to my horror clocked a nice marble bollard 2 inches from my front tyre. ‘Great. Here we go again.’ and up into the air I soared (clinging to the bike) and did a full somersault landing on the ground on the other side on my back with bike on top. Much to the amusement of the huge group of picnicking Koreans! Some scrapes, a few good bruises and what feels like a broken thumb were all I had but I couldn’t have cared less. All I was worried about was James’ camera which he’d leant me on pain of death and that I’d landed on top of! Luckily it is made of stronger stuff than the kindle (again broken) and is in perfect working order. Phew! My tumble as you can imagine restored Sharu-u, along with the much desired plaster, to a very good humour. Coaching is as injury plagued as rowing so it seems......

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Numerous evenings were spent at coaches meetings where we sat around talking about anything other than coaching rowing. We learnt that horse is the best type of meat to eat, the Kuwait coach had single handed rescued all the rowing boats at the club during the invasion from Iraq and that the Vietnamese Australian coach runs an Angus Beef stud farm that bank rolls a school and boat club. Naturally weather came up alot and Sarey’s face was an absolute picture when the Kazakhstan coach was talking about the weather in his country currently being very mild (Sarey nodding along at this point) he then qualified the statement by telling us it was 'very nice between -2 and 3 degrees!' Sarey’s jaw hit the ground.... Obviously it would feel mild after a winter at -45!

Being a rowing camp we were based in a hotel in the middle of nowhere and saw mainly the course, bus route and hotel and surrounding grounds. A trip out to a nearby national park in the mountains to see an old temple site was organised for our day off. Really beautiful as all the cherry blossom came out while we were there so everywhere there were clouds of pink and white trees. We also had a night's entertainment involving the performance of a rowing song, musical and dance. It lived up to all the names suggest. Jess I promise to get the video of it to you asap.

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We met so many people doing so many great things and just to hear how all the Asian countries are developing their rowing with the aim to become truly competitive with the more established rowing nations was really enjoyable. To give some idea of their progress in 1999 at the Qualification regatta for Sydney only 3 countries raced in the women’s single event. This year 16 countries were represented in the women’s single and 20 in the men’s single. We had 22 countries altogether.  The thing I really liked about having my ‘coaches’ hat on was that I got the opportunity to talk to everyone. As a team we made lots of new friends.

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Sharu-u and Hasna did an incredible job on their first ever camp and international regatta – I was really proud of them. They learnt all about the rowing machine, improved their technique, rowed in a couple of lovely empachers without falling in and raced their first 2km race ever on the training camp and then went out and had a full four days racing at the Olympic Qualification Regatta. They came last in every race but refused to be demoralised, never grumbled or complained (loudly anyway) and always got on the water keen to race and try out the new suggestions made by their coach such as: ‘please don’t rate 20 in a race ever again’, ‘I want you to be unable to move when you cross the finish line’ (this after Sharu-u happily announced he would have been able to do another 2km race no problems at the end of his heat) and to go out as hard and fast as they could off the start to see how long they could hold onto the pack.

Each learnt alot about racing and discovered that rowing is a masochistic sport in which people delight in hurting themselves. When they came to tell me that their legs hurt after 200m what should they do? they were not expecting the answer that racing hurts the whole way down the course and is the same for everyone so make it hurt more! Their times improved each day they went out. The support and acknowledgement of their efforts they received from the other teams and coaches was a huge boost to their morale and went a long way to making their experience a positive one. 

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Being in that environment also opened their eyes to what other rowers do, how much they train, how strong they are (the girls here are stronger than all the boys at home was one comment) and got their enthusiasm pumping sky high. I’m being pestered daily to get hold of rowing machines (oh the innocence they will soon wish we didn’t have them...) so we can practice on them and they now want to do weights and long outings and have promised they will not say they are tired..... It’s also done wonders for the group back in Addu who followed their progress through facebook, email and skype and all are keener than before. We are now looking to become members of the Asian Rowing Federation and so be able to take part in all the various Asian regattas as they come along.

So exciting times are coming up but for now we are back down to business and training for the interschool rowing competition on July 13-14.

X Tash

 


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