In part 2 of our occasional updates leading up to the Tokyo Olympics we look at the new women's 2k world record, the stunning news of the end of two legendary NZ rowing careers, and another hopeful sign that the Olympics may in fact go on as scheduled.
USA's Mooney Sets Women's 2k World Record
Princeton Training Center rower and Olympic hopeful Brooke Mooney set a new world record of 6:21.1 during US national team testing this week, beating the previous record held by Olena Buryak of Ukraine by 1.5 seconds. Beyond the eye-popping time, take a look at the pacing below; facing that type of late race pressure from an opponent would be daunting at any level, whew. Our congrats to Brooke!
If nothing else, the ongoing worldwide pandemic has led to many rowers retreating into the solitary confines of the erg and putting their noses to the wheel; the Concept2 listing of erg world records across all distances and age categories lists an astonishing 281 new world records set during the 2020-2021 indoor rowing season.
Two NZ Rowing Legends Exit the Stage
Also in the past week, Rowing NZ saw the apparent career ends of two of its most recognizable and accomplished rowers. Four-time Olympian, three time medalist and two time Men's Single winner Mahe Drysdale was not named to the NZ team for the World Cups; Jordan Parry was named to the NZ Elite Team in the Men's Single in the March 23rd announcement.
The decision to name Parry over Drysdale is surprising in that, at the NZ Rowing Championships on February 18th, Drysdale finished 4th while Parry finished 6th.
Since New Zealand has opted to contest only the Men's Eight at the Final Olympic Qualifying regatta in Lucerne in May, and not the similarly not-yet-qualified Men's Quad, it would appear that Drysdale's career would be over.
Mahe Drysdale celebrates the Olympic Gold in the M1x in Rio
In contrast to the US, where most small boats are determined via an open trialling system, Rowing New Zealand operates via a system of selectors that make the decisions regarding the full squad. In this instance, it seems that the selectors did not see a path for Drysdale to contribute to the NZ team this year.
Going out this way would represent a disappointing ending for the legendary Drysdale, whose long international career saw him achieve extraordinary success over such a long period (and often against long odds; who can forget the 2008 Olympics in Beijing where Drysdale captured a bronze medal despite racing through a serious illness in the final).
While Drysdale's non-selection could have been foreseen due to his poor showings in domestic racing over the past season, lightweight sculler Zoe McBride's sudden decision to retire just months before the the Olympics, at age 25 was far more surprising.
McBride, alongside Jackie Kiddle, won the 2019 World Championships in the Lightweight Women's Double, and would have had to have been considered one of the favorites going into the Olympics. During her career, McBride had won both the Lightweight Women's Single and Double at both the U23 and Senior levels.
In announcing her retirement, McBride was very candid that her successful career had come at a significant cost to her health, and that further sacrifices simply did not seem worth the possible consequences.
Olympic Torch Relay Commences in Japan
It's the little things; with the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay on March 25th, the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics are again telegraphing their intentions that the Olympics should go ahead this summer as scheduled.
The Tokyo Olympic Torch relay, whose official tag line is the powerfully appropriate "Hope Lights Our Way," began at J-Village National Training Center in Fukushima Prefecture and will be held across all 47 prefectures of Japan. Per the organizers, the Olympic flame "will serve as a symbol of the Olympic Games and will traverse the length and breadth of Japan for a period of 121 days. Some 98% of the population of Japan will be within an hour's journey by vehicle or train from the Torch Relay."
With public pressure in Japan still indicating some reservations against holding the Olympics this summer, as well as the recent decision of the Japanese government to not allow overseas spectators to attend the Games, it's still not a given that the Olympics will happen, but hope certainly lights our way.