Rowing with the Olympian

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I eventually rustled up the courage to approach the rowing coach on Tuesday. I wasn’t sure how much of our conversation from the Enkai she would remember. But alas she was delighted I showed interest, it’s always the case so I am getting bolder about asking for stuff every day! The date was set, I would go on Wednesday to watch the rowers, I didn’t want to impose myself on them too much so I just asked to watch. We drove to the river together, which the kids cycle 40 minutes to everyday during the summer (in winter they train on machines in school).  So in my head I imagine kayak style boats, maybe even those wooden clunky boats but oh no when I peeked over the bank into the river I could only laugh. The river was heaving with those skinny slick high speed boats, the ones that topple over with the slightest touch. I was amazed. There were doubles, singles and team boats (4 rowers and 1 coxman).  My boating expert levels are extremely minimum so excuse my lack of rowing vocabulary. Before I knew it I had agreed to give it a shot, after Yoshida (the Olympian) offered I was happy if she had faith in me! Swarmed by tons of students who dressed me in their spare clothes, carried the boat and oars to the river, as well as taking hundreds of photos. The boat club is shared by three high schools, everyone is friends so they all helped me together. The best rower (we nicknamed him Hannah’s partner as his name was seriously tricky) took me under his wing and agreed to take me out in a double boat. I was 100% sure I would end up head first in the water, but what do ya know I stayed above surface the entire time. Getting in and out of the boat was the most nerve racking but with ten arms helping you it would actually have been difficult to fall in. Yoshida Sensei gave me a few basics before I got into the boat and we were off.  It is extremely strange that feeling of learning something totally new, so much concentration, so much excitement. The smile on my face matched those of the kids and teachers watching from the shore line. I gradually got the hang of it while my partner directed me with some very useful tips. Don’t lift your oars too high as it unbalances the boat – I learnt this after a major wobble. Left hand oar on top of your right hand oar, plunging the oar into the river is not cool and will most definitely create another serious wobble. So I rowed for a bit while my partner kept the boat balanced, then I was told to ‘rest relax enjoy beauty’ while he flew us along the surface. While I was at ‘rest and relax’ I was in fact concentrating very hard, I was told to place the oars in ‘arigato position’ which is I think rest position, but this is quite tricky if you have never done it before. You cannot just lift them out of the water and chill out, that as I mentioned would unbalance the wee boat pretty quick. So instead you place your oars on top of the water, but not beneath. Tricky task for a beginner.  I mastered it after a few more serious wobbles and then I actually got to ‘relax rest enjoy beauty’.  It was an amazing experience sitting in that boat, you feel between layers, you are not on land but not in water, you are in between, the sun began to set as we were gliding so peacefully along the surface. My turn came around again and so I began my catch position, drive position, finish position, recovery. The river was very bendy, while I was concentrating hard and having some great chats with ‘my partner’, he would at random say ‘stop please Hannah’ in a very formal voice I would turn around and we would be fast approaching a large concrete block. I had faith in him and he kept us out of any collisions.  An hour passed and darkness forces us ashore but all night in my sleep I was playing catch position, drive position, finish position, recovery…

P.S  Hi Geoffrey Leggett 😉

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