Please ban the bikes from the boating
Watching the Olympic regatta on Eton Dorney last week, I found it hard to concentrate on the efforts of any of the rowers – be they Australian, British or other – because I couldn’t stop looking at the cyclists following the boats down the course.
Let me set the scene. The final of the men’s eight. The race featured Australia, Britain, reigning Olympic champions Canada, Germany – who were unbeaten in the men’s eight for the past three years – USA and the Netherlands.
In a thrilling race which the Brits led with 500m to go, the Germans pulled ahead of the fading British in the last few hundred, before the Canadians pipped the Poms on the line for silver.
Though the Canadians’ world record of five minutes 19 seconds was never threatened, it was still the six fastest crews in the world competing, with eight of the strongest, fittest men on the planet in each boat, all of whom gave so much effort many finished the race and collapsed in exhaustion.
Meanwhile, a pack of people on pushies casually pedaled alongside the race, able to keep level with the entire event without so much as breaking a sweat.
I have a bit of knowledge about rowing, having competed at the AAGPS Head of the River in the junior eights many years ago.
To say we were an ordinary crew would be putting it kindly. I believe we ended up coming second last and were extremely proud of our result – “not last” we smugly told people when they asked how we faired.
However, regardless of how terrible we were, I remember the pain of rowing. It’s a sport in which you use literally every single muscle in your body at 100 percent of its capacity over 2km – which can take anywhere between the Canadian world record to somewhere over seven minutes for a terrible junior schoolboy crew.
So to see eight men, all of whom I know from experience are in agony from the effort they are giving, being humbled by a single bloke on a bike seems unfair.
We don’t allow people to power walk alongside the pool to watch a swimming race.
Nor do we have a road next to the track, showing that a Holden Commodore wouldn’t need to get out of second to keep up with the fastest man on the planet.
So maybe it’s time to tell the cyclist spectators to take their place in the crowd and stop belittling the effort of the rowers who have trained for four years to go as fast as they can.
Even if “as fast as they can” is actually pretty slow on a bike.