Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Next Great Rowing Superpower?

I remember reading an article in Rowing News months ago which discussed the dominance of the East German rowing squad in the 70's and the 80's. At the end of the article, a coach compared the GDR training system to the system that the Chinese are currently using. Essentially, the coach predicted the rise of Chinese rowing by the time the Bejing Olympics come around, due to their approach to training.

I took very little stock into this report; how could the Chinese, a nonentity in a rowing world dominated by Europeans, come to rule over a sport? Certainly, when the East Germans took the rowing world by storm, both pre-World War II Germany and West Germany had already made itself a presence on the international rowing scene. But China? I didn't think it was true.

I may very well be wrong, however. I was looking at the results for the past two World Cup events in Munich and Poznan, and found that there were a number of Chinese boats in A finals, some even in first place. I know that not every great rowing nation sends rowers to each World Cup event, so the results can't be looked at as a definitive prediction of the World Championships, but to win medals; nay, even make the A final in an Olympic event at a World Cup is pretty impressive.

Not only were the Chinese winning and racing well, they also had depth like I've never before seen at a World Cup. There were some small boat races that had up to four Chinese entries in them. Depth is important to any successful rowing program, and if you've got four boats fighting it out for a chance at the World Championships this late in the season, the crews that come out on top are probably going to be fast.

Besides, depth is not an issue when 20% of the world's population lives in your country.


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