Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sportsmanship Lives

In an age when every athletic contest seems to be an opportunity to find new ways to mock one's opponent and aggrandize oneself, we were offered a lesson in sportsmanship by the Undine, Penn State, and U Vic light four crews and coaches on Sunday.

Those of you who checked the light four results shortly after they were posted on Sunday saw U Vic in first by virtue of a buoy violation penalty assessed against Undine. Spectators were surprised to watch the early progression of the light four race and see no sign of Undine. Clearly something had happened to the boat and in fact, they had trouble launching and arrived late to the starting line. After some hard words and raised voices, the referees allowed Undine to start at the back of the pack. Rapidly making up water on the field, the crew began passing the boat just ahead. The boat being passed was Penn State and the Nittany Lions moved off their course, yielding to Undine. As they were being overtaken, however, Penn State encountered steering problems and pushed the Undine boat out of the racing lane, causing it to miss two buoys. Seen by the referees (as ALL buoy violations are at the Charles), Undine was duly penalized.

Undine appealed to the Race Jury and just 30 minutes prior to the awards ceremony the Undine penalty was withdrawn and Penn State was assessed a one minute penalty. In fact, the Penn State coxswain and coach stepped forward to explain what happened to the jury, an act which certainly played no small part in the final resolution. Undine presented their case professionally and forthrightly, Penn State came forward to give the true version of events knowing it would mean a penalty, and U Vic, who saw defeat snatched from the jaws of victory, duly congratulated the proper winners. The U Vic coach did what good coaches do and explained to his crew that redemption can come next year. (As an interesting aside, I should note that one of the Undine rowers was a Penn State alumnae.) [Update: A reader notes that Penn State was penalized immediately, not later when they spoke to the jury. Nonetheless, their actions after the race reaffirmed the penalty.]

Everyone acquitted themselves well in this affair, and the only losers were lightweight fans who were denied the opportunity to see Undine and U Vic go head to head. No problem though, we just need to come back next year since they'll start 1, 2 again. This race turned out to be a complete reversal of last year's, as U Vic cruised along in front, blissfully unaware of how fast Undine was moving from the back of the pack. Two years ago Undine lost this very race to Radcliffe (the four was the priority boat for Radcliffe that year as they didn't enter an eight) on an appeal of a penalty. It's funny how things come back around.

Completely unrelated, but worth noting nonetheless, a reader drew my attention to the fact that Penn AC's Rebecca Smith and Maria Picone, two lightweights, came very close to winning the Champ 2x!


Anonymous said...

Great recap and great to see sportsmanship still prevails in the end. Class move by the Penn State.

Anonymous said...

Penn State, UVic, and Undine were all very classy in the way the situation was handled. However, Penn State's 1 minute penalty was given immediatley after the race and not after they stepped foward to give their explaination of the event. Even though the penatly had already been given to them, it was still a commendable move to speak up.

Anonymous said...

Interesting...two years ago at the CSSRA regatta the same coxie from this UVIC crew was the cox of Shawnigan Lake School that won the heavy 4+ in a re-row that occurred through no fault of either them or the original winning crew. As fans in the stands were saying some fairly inappropriate things about who the "real winners" should have been, the Shawnigan Women called the original winners (Dennis Morris) onto the podium to share the win with them.

Anonymous said...

I believe that Undine last year, and UVic this year would both have liked to rerow the race. Obviously they were the two fastest boats both years, and hopefully they will settle it on the water next year. I have had to start at the back of the HOC just due to my entry. It is no fun or easy task to pass boats on that very tight course. I quess it is a best of 3 series, but never rule out another boat.