Unique technique will help Skibb pair’s move
BY KIERAN McCARTHY
SHANE O’Driscoll feels the unusual rowing technique used by Mark O’Donovan and himself will power their switch to heavyweight rowing.
The Southern Star broke the news earlier this month that world men’s lightweight pair champions Shane and Mark are leaving the lightweight world behind them and attempting to crack the men’s pair (heavyweight), which is an Olympic class boat.
Shane’s estimate is that the Skibbereen duo has to make up ten seconds on their new rivals – but it’s an inexact science to put an actual figure on the time difference between lightweight and heavyweight pairs as it depends on water conditions, wind and other factors.
When Shane and Mark won gold at the 2017 World Rowing Championships in Florida on the Friday afternoon (local time), they finished in 6:32.420, while when Italy took gold in the men’s pair the following morning, they clocked 6:16.220.
There is also a big difference between the world record for lightweight (6:22.910, Switzerland in 2014) and heavyweight (6:08.500, New Zealand, 2012 Olympics).
But Shane is confident that the rowing technique employed by the Irish pair will make a difference.
‘The way we row is very unique and we are quite proud of that and we believe in that,’ Shane said.
‘People say the way we row is crazy, we basically throw length out the window, we put the oar in aggressively and hard and make sure there is no slippage on the boat. It’s very efficient, I find, and we really have tested it out in training and it works.
‘We are almost changing the game a little, rating so high and we are not as long as others would row. The length of our strokes would be quite short and much more racier, more of a sprint than the traditional long stroke.
‘We row aggressively anyway on race day, we turn it up a notch then, for the heat, semi-final and final.
‘We take more strokes per minute than other crews. If they rate 37, we rate 43 strokes.
‘Even listening to a British commentator before, he was saying he never saw anything like it in his life.
‘I think people will look at it and say, “We can rate higher and what is the point in taking less strokes per minute?”
Shane admits they row against all the standard techniques, but they’ve found a formula that works for them; their five international gold medals from the past year back that up.
‘There are a lot of factors that come into it,’ Shane said.
‘We sit up nice and tall, most other crews would rock over a lot and put their bodies into it at the catch. A lot of people place their oar in the water, we bang it in quite aggressively, and we make sure that the blade doesn’t move through the water, that we are connected with it.
‘We adjusted our weights programme this year so that we would get really fast legs. We squatted lighter but we would squat faster than in previous years.
‘You can adjust the set-up in a rowing boat and our set-up would be different to other crews we are rowing against. We have tested that a lot to find the set-up that suits us and makes us faster.
‘It’s not that we want to go against the general standards but this is what works for us.’
Shane added: ‘There is more to come out of our stroke. It’s the fastest way we have of getting from A to B.’