Thursday, December 22, 2005

FISA Says Lightweights Rock!

Well, not exactly, but in a roundup of recent sports honors from around the world, a FISA report noted that lightweights (including men) won 7 of the 13 awards covered. Melanie Kok, a rower at the University of Virginia, was a member of Canada's world champion lightweight quad which won the Rowing Canada Aviron International Achievement Award. This is particularly interesting because UVa is usually seen as a "meat" program. Maybe that reputation is undeserved or maybe Melanie is the outstanding exception that proves the rule. Either way, it makes one wonder where the US lightweight national team members come from - the major collegiate lightweight programs, occasional lightweight programs, or smaller heavyweight programs. A quick look at last year's 7 national team members reveals their college teams to be Simmons, St. Joe's, Vermont, Cal, UCSD, George Mason, and Emory. As best I can tell, there are only two or three that frequently row lightweight (St. Joe's, UCSD, and Emory), and none with a dedicated lightweight program. The Cal rower, Julie Nichols, rowed as a heavyweight. I would have expected to see some representation from Wisconsin, Radcliffe, Princeton, Stanford, or Georgetown. The national heavyweight powers usually seem to be well represented on the national team, why not the lightweights? Of course, there are so few lightweight slots that any one year could give a distorted view.

This also suggests that there are a lot of good lightweights in smaller programs rowing as heavyweights. Perhaps if coaches weren't so fixated on heavyweights they would realize that they could boat nationally competitive lightweight boats instead of regionally competitive heavyweight boats. Maybe the problem is no lightweight events. As I go through results for the past couple of years to see how many schools row lightweight, it seems clear that many row heavyweight as a matter of course, but always enter a lightweight boat when there is a lightweight event. Regatta organizers would no doubt say that they would offer lightweight events if there was demand. It's hard to train and race a lightweight boat, though, when you never know if there will be an event for it.

Speaking of the national team, by now you've seen the USRowing yearbook. It was disappointing that of 9 color pictures of the US senior national team, the silver medal winning lightweight 2x was in none. Their only picture was as a watermark on the background of a page of text. What's a girl gotta do...? (There are some good shots of Wisco, though.)

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