#TuksRowing: Olympic rowing squad uses modern technology to ensure some sense of normality

Posted on April 08, 2020

The session starts with the rowers of South Africa's Olympic training squad at first amicably chatting amongst each other. There are enquiries about each other's health. No one seems to be sick. Someone asks the coach what is required for the session.

After a few minutes, the idle chit chat stops. They are together to train. The collective goal is to get stronger, fitter and faster. The rower's bodies start to move along in rhythmic unison. Backwards and forwards . . . backwards and forwards. The sweat begins to pour, and soon, most's breathing becomes more laboured.

It all seems oh so normal. Only another day in which the rowers get to push their bodies to the limit. But it is not. It is an illusion created by modern technology. 

The athletes are each at their own home training on a Concept 2 Ergo rowing machine. They are all logged in on the Zoom App. That is what enables them to interact, creating a familiar sense of camaraderie.

It is part of the national rowing coach based at Tuks Roger Barrow's innovative plan to ensure the coronavirus pandemic lockdown does not disrupt the Olympic training squad's daily training schedule. On Fridays, the group is doing yoga together. 

It took some planning to get everything in place before the national lockdown started. Each piece of gym equipment had to be sourced and then delivered individually to the rower's respective houses. According to Barrow, having RMB as sponsor certainly helped. 

Barrow had good reason to do what he did. For him, teamwork and success go hand in hand in rowing. 

"We have tried to create a virtual room which enables the whole team - doctors, physiotherapists and sports scientists - to still interact with the rowers and monitor what is happening. The idea is to try and stick to what we did before. Any form of disruption is detrimental to an athlete's motivation. 

"In these uncertain times it easy to get demotivated. Especially since most of the international competitions have either been cancelled or postponed. Athletes might think there is no purpose in continuing to train. 

"One of the positives about all of this is that we now got more time to analyse the data - power output, heartrate etc. The goal at the moment is not to get the rowers to perform to the best of their abilities. The focus is to improve on certain specifics," explains the Tuks based national coach.


- Author Wilhelm de Swardt

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