With the 2017 World Rowing Championships just around the corner, Australia’s Men’s Eight features three athletes who have plenty of experience racing in the USA, with Ben Coombs, Tim Masters and Simon Keenan all having studied and rowed out of US colleges. Coombs, a 2014 graduate from Columbia University in International Politics and Russian Language, is looking forward to racing in Florida, a state he has visited a number of times previously with the Columbia rowing program.
“It feels a bit different, as we [Columbia] used to row over the Christmas period and over the Spring Break about two hours away from here on the other side of the State for a couple of weeks every year. However, whenever we were here with Columbia, it was always hot and humid, and it is no different now.”
Coombs admitted conditions were breezy in Sarasota, which will no doubt test some of the competitors: “The first few days we’ve been out here it seems like there’s been some pretty persistent cross breeze the entire time, so it could make for some interesting racing. Conditions like this will require more emphasis on crew harmony rather than just powering all the way down the course. Hopefully we are sitting in good stead for here as Canberra was quite windy in the lead up this year, and we’ve dealt with those conditions, there’s nothing here that we’ve not seen before.”
Coombs, along with his teammates, prepared in Canberra at the Reinhold Batschi Men’s National Training Centre, before joining up with the women’s team in Penrith ahead of departing for the USA. The 25-year-old from Victoria believes the high performance environment has been beneficial to the whole group.
“This preparation has been different to how we prepared for Europe, I think there’s been more of an understanding within the group about how we’re going to approach our rowing and how we want to execute what want to execute next week.
“The support both on and off the water has been awesome, especially with the extra financial assistance we’ve received from Hancock Prospecting and the Georgina Hope Foundation.
“Having nutrition, strength and conditioning, sports science and soft tissue all in the same place, down in Canberra, has been just fantastic. Everyone is in the same office building, so you can always see someone if something comes up. If you’ve a problem with your body, you’re able to see one of the physios, within five minutes, if you’ve got queries about recovery and food, you can Bronwen [Lundy – RA Lead Dietician] within five minutes and it just makes everything so much easier.
“To have them come over with us on the tour has been unreal again, it just feels like we’re in Canberra or Penrith, except we’re overseas. It feels like we have everyone here to help us get our best possible result.”
The lead up to the World Rowing Championships saw the Australian Rowing Team have to alter its pre-departure camp plans due to Hurricane Irma’s impact on Florida; however, Coombs believes this change in plans has had little impact on the crews.
“One of the mottos that our Head Coach, Ian Wright, has instilled in the group is to be adaptable. He wants us to be adaptable to the conditions around us, things might move around – like how we changed our preparation coming into here – however, the goal still hasn’t changed at all, nor has how we go about approaching that goal, it has been the same whether we’re in DeLand or Penrith.
“Having a series of different places to prepare, you just role with the punches and focus on the bigger things on our minds, which is the World Championships,” said Coombs.
Coombs finished his US college rowing career on a high, with his university crew finishing 10th in the country, while also being voted the Most Valuable Player on his rowing team at Columbia in Senior Year. He was also named in the IRA All-Academic Team and has maintained ties with many of his former college rowing teammates, many of whom are coming to support him and his teammates as they compete in Florida.
“It’s going to be really fun week of racing. A lot of the guys who I rowed with in college are coming down to watch us race, along with parents of guys I used to row with – it’s exciting. A lot of people who I’ve not seen in a few years are coming down to watch me and the team race, which is going to be quite special,” concluded Coombs.