This week we have been in Sydney at the National trials. Obviously a very different experience for us than most but we did try to create a sense of urgency around or race practice. Much of the team selection I can quiet keep track of as many things are being tried and tested with all different combinations of crews.
We did our three races against the doubles and well we had our ass’s handed to us by some 14 to 15 sec each time by the winning double scull. What we did do though was try a few different strategies. We learned that right now we are not ready to rate above 34 with out making mistakes and really paying a price physically. Actually our second race was interesting* we attempted to stay with the double sculls for as long as possible. Pretty certain there was a small mushroom cloud at the 1000m mark that we created when we blew up. Anyway we felt it important to try a few things. Our last race we decided to focus on getting into rhythm and to let the low rating and levers work well for us. All up we would like to be faster, but I guess we are travelling ok considering were our preparation is at.
Comparatively we faired pretty well against other boats classes. Even though the doubles were considerably faster than us, I figure we are about 4-5sec off pace at the moment. What does this mean long term? Well with some specific race preparation I am sure we will reduce that margin and with the full build up through Luzern to Beijing, I am confident that the extra 4-5 beyond that is achievable. So on that reckoning it is probably between 8 to 10 sec that we have ahead of us to be at the standard we aim to race at.
As for the Team selection well it was an interesting* sense of anxiousness, excitement, frustration and worry that I noticed around the venue. Selection is never easy and the vagaries lead to confusion and many athletes are in an obvious place of uncertainty. Does this create best performances? Not sure, well personally I think for most it would be very damaging to performance. I guess some might say that is the test. From one perspective I think the less distraction, the less clarity about what’s required and the less mystery would actually enable athletes to do there best and feel better about the outcomes, be it in or out of the Team.
What am I saying here? To me when the objectives are clear and the process understood then I don’t mind working to go through it to see were I sit and how I perform. Reverse all that and make it grey, vague and confusing and well I wouldn’t perform and would certainly struggle to see were I sit in the hierarchy of athletes. Or at best even if someone was to indicate were I am at, I would find it difficult to trust them and it would drive me crazy questioning the reality of the outcomes when based on a style of mixed subjectivity and objectivity. The process needs to be understood and clear. I mention all this because my experience with the four way back when, was similar and although it played out in my favour and the crews favour, I know that others didn’t agree with the selection outcomes at the time. It was confusing and when you get the nod you tend to move on and accept it as being ok, but when you watch from the side lines and things aren’t clear it becomes clear the dangers and damage that can be done.
Can a selection process be clear? Well I am sure there will always be some grey areas. Particularly with team selections it has an element of exploration to find what works. Does this create the best long-term outcomes when things drag on or the process is carried out over a long time? Personally I think, no.
Our situation is very clear and I recall the same feeling in the lead up to Athens in 2004. Quiet simply we meet the needs of the head coach and selectors 12 months in advance and as such they had confidence in selecting us early. The process was based on a World Championship result and the established consistency that had been displayed. It has meant that we have been able to focus on what required to prepare for being at our best at the games. We have taken responsibility to test ourselves and practice what we have found is required to be the best we can be. The is no question about what we have to do.
Through this time it is obvious that our path and the path of our team mates are different. Ultimately we all have a similar aim. We all want to be the best we can, or at least that what I think everyone wants. The difference is that we have had our sights firmly set on the big picture for some time. In that time we have made adjustments and refocused. We have even re-framed it in many ways. This refining is subtle and ongoing, for others they have been engrossed with the shorter term objectives. We have to keep this in mind as the different views have both advantages and disadvantages.
Now we have two week before the National Championships were we will race the pair. Against who? I don’t know but it will be our only race in Australia before the international stage of our preparation.