Ireland has a great and exciting opportunity to be one of the top rowing federations in the next two years. As HPD, I can genuinely say that 2018 has been a very positive year of Rowing Ireland across all the categories and mainly within the SA Team.
This year’s World Championships demonstrated a significant improvement compared to last year’s Championships in Sarasota. This was to be expected considering this was the second year post the 2016 Olympic Games. The two Gold medals of Gary and Paul and of Sanita is the result of a combined effort and commitment from all involved and to Rowing Ireland who stretched its human and financial resources. The two crews are an example of the whole of the Plovdiv team which has seen all the eight crews prepare and perform at their best. Now Ireland has a team across all of the categories (both lightweight and heavyweight) with the know how that finals can be reached and medals can be won.
The current Olympic boats medal ranking sees Ireland as one of the top countries in the world which makes me incredibly proud but also concerned. Proud because of the medals won and the fact that the crews are now nearly all ranked within the Olympic quota. This has proven that hard work pays off from all involved- athletes, HP staff and club coaches. The success recognises that outcomes were met due to the quality of the program, the knowledge of the technical model and the well-structured annual plan.
Concerns are based on the fact that these results have been built on a very fragile platform/system supported by an exceptionally tight budget which needs to be reinforced. My challenge as HPD is to make sure that these results are not going to be a one off. But, instead a starting point for a solid platform where we can build a system to achieve consistant and positive results across all of the categories therefore repeating what was achieved in 2018 and identifying room for improvement. We need to take into consideration that the boat speed of the top crews will further increase next year and of course in the following year leading up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Considering our very tight budget, the years preceding the Olympic qualifications are crucial, beyond the best possible results, we need to be in a knowledgeable position to understand where to direct our resources to reach the pre-Olympic year with the best chance of qualifying. We need to be cognisant that all the HP countries will utilise more financial and human resources in order to put all of their High Performance teams in a strong and/or stronger position in order to meet their own expected targets. Next year is the Olympic qualification one and all the countries will try to qualify as many boats as possible. We need to be in a position to respond to this. The identification of areas of improvement, the elaboraton of the appropriate strategies, the implementation of them and the further reviews are not negotiable if we are to establish a solid HP system. I am realistic as to what lies ahead and the challenges that we will need to be faced related to an Olympic qualification year. Our team is a young team, perhaps the youngest in the world in terms of Olympic and SA World experience and we need the whole of Ireland’s support as per this year.
I would like to summarise the year that has been and where our priorities need to be placed:
Within the lightweights coached by Dominic Casey an excellent job has been done reinforcing the already existing squad. The LM squad is very solid. Two crews (6 scullers) in A final, winning one gold with the double is an excellent platform for the next two years. More and better work needs to be done within the women’s lightweight where we are still a couple of steps behind the standard required to achieve an A final (qualification quota in Linz) as well as the M2-.
Within the Heavyweight category, coached by David McGowan, an initial team has now been built. The heavyweight team is still in its forming phase but behind the excellent Sanita there are motivated crews which hold a realistic chance to qualify for Tokyo. In Plovdiv W2-, M2X and W2X all achieved a spot within the Olympic qualification quota. But we can and we will do better to make sure that these crews will reconfirm their ranking in 2019 with a chance to make the A final.
My HP team goal for the next two years is not to just qualify boats for Tokyo but qualify boats for Tokyo which will be competitive enough to gain an A final and a medal. I believe that it is realistically possible but I am fully aware that it is not going to be easy.
I have learned from my best mentor that the success is in the fruit that the planter produces. The plant is the training. Only with a hard and well established training process the plant will produce success (the fruit). The soil where the plant is producing the success is the enviroment- the NRC- the clubs- the universities- the whole of Rowing Ireland. If the soil (us) is fertile and strong the athlete will be strong and fast.
As HPD, I have repeatedly said that I need your help and your support. Only with the help of all Rowing Ireland, athletes, coaches, volunteers than Ireland can achieve the main objectives of the sport’s high performance which is the creation of a champion as a positive role model to be proposed to the young citizens in order to involve them in groups positively orientated for an optimal physical, physiological, moral and social development.
It has been an honour for me to work with such passionate people and I want to personally thank all of the HP athletes across all the categories for their dedication, passion and spirit of sacrifice. All the athlete’s families and friends for supporting our athletes and encouraging them during the most significantly difficult moments of their preparation. To the two National Coaches Dominic and David who clearly displayed their work ethics, demonstrating that hard work and passion can lead to great things. I would like to acknowledge all of the other coaches, most of them whom are volunteers, which have contributed to the success of this year. To the president of RI and the Board of Management my gratitude for their unwavering support. To the whole HP committee and its Chair Neville Maxwell for their concrete help and ongoing encouragement. I would like to extend my appreciation to the past and present CEO’s of RI Hamish Adams and Michelle Carpenter. To the NRC staff I wish to recognise their professionalism and ongoing enthusiasm. To Sport Ireland, Sport Institute and OCI for their expertise and willingness in listening and accepting the HP challenges. A final mention to all of the club’s coaches, and the club’s staff for their availability to help and coach our athletes.
Enjoy the celebrations but we need to get back to business. The real fun is yet to come!
Antonio Maurogiovanni, Rowing Ireland High Performance Director