Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Igor Grinko's Chinese Women Crank - Beijing Olympics

The Chinese women, in the women's quadruple sculls, blew away the field in their opening heat. They looked sharp and classically trained by Igor Grinko - - with the same technique that he tried to teach us back in 1992. Technique that is perfect for quad rowing - cutting off the finish and jumping off the foot stretchers.

It suddenly occurred to me that rowing is the perfect sport for a communist country (as is synchronized diving) because there can be no ego, every movement has to be identical with the person in front of you, there can be no individual star or extraneous movement. You have to completely blend in and if you are headstrong and try to do your own thing, you will only slow down the boat.

Countries are still questioning whether the Chinese are using performance enhancements - but if you look at their actual technique, the Chinese are rowing really well. That, plus the development of athletes that China began several years ago, has and will continue to yield strong results. Moreover, the extraordinary support from the Chinese government, which put the time and energy and coaching into their athletes, will pay rich dividends this summer.

Watching the US athletes compete, it struck me that many of these athletes are left to their own devices with little or no consistent coaching - and it is such a shame that the US does not have a similar system of support for its athletes (at least not its rowing athletes). With one of the largest gene pools of athletic talent in the US, more consistent support, money, coaching and facilities for up and coming athletes would result in more consistent results.

We in the US put most of our eggs in the men's and women's eights basket. However, only 7 women's eights are lining up in Bejing and only 8 men's eights lined up - - that is not much of a competition. Frankly, and this might be heresy - but removing the eights from the Olympic program because it is so sparsely attended - and instead adding more events for smaller boats (a lightweight single; a women's four, a men's and women's coxed four; more lightweight events) would be more exciting and more competitive. Plus - more countries can afford to send smaller boats to race.

Watching the rowing events at the Olympics this year is particularly exciting with the addition of the overhead cable cameras in the last 250 meters of the race. The Chinese broadcast is magnificent. In fact, you can actually see who is exerting intensity of effort (and who is not).

A shout out to the perennial Ted Nash, a member of the 1960 Olympic Team and coach to many Olympic and National Team boats. Ted coached the Winklevoss twins who advanced to the semi-finals yesterday, winning their repecharge heat. Ted is a coach who has always been available to almost any athlete that has picked up the phone to ask for his help. Kudos as well to Michelle Guerette, the US single sculler, for winning her quarter final - she looks really smooth and strong. And a great effort as well by the US men's single, Ken Jurkowski, who qualified for the semi-finals.

Finally - many thanks to Lela and the Business Pundit for this little bit of COVERAGE.

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