Sport500 is following the progress of rower Emily Craig towards the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. She’s having to deal with a new situation – a change of partner in the lightweight double sculls. Molly Shaw reports.
Moving a boat forwards through the water is all about efficiency. Rowers must slide up and down the boat in total unison, catch the water with their blades simultaneously and use their strength effectively to make the most of every stroke.
You need to be completely in sync, physically and mentally. In the lightweight double, a good partnership is about knowing how to get the best out of your partner and being able to maximise each other’s strengths while enjoying what you are doing. It’s a relationship that requires open communication and total respect for your crew-mate.
After finishing fifth at the World Championships last year with 2012 Olympic Champion Kat Copeland, Emily Craig goes into the 2018 season racing with a new partner in Ellie Piggott.
Having first raced in a crew together in 2015, the duo know each other well and are friends outside the boat. They come together again having developed greatly as individual athletes, ready to put what they have learned into practice and generate success as a double.
The Great Britain squad all follow the same technical model in their rowing, meaning athletes can take their time to mature as individuals before applying their strengths to a boat come regatta season.
The double is a more intense boat than the quad Emily and Ellie raced together previously. To familiarise herself with her new partner, Emily often likes to use personality tests such as Myers Briggs to work out how to get the best from Ellie. This sort of test can also help develop strategies for any potential conflict when sessions perhaps don’t go quite their way
It is important to remember that you are all, coach included, in pursuit of the same aim: boat speed. On the way to top speed, Emily believes a happy crew is a strong crew. Fortunately, Emily and Ellie are very able to talk frankly about how the boat is going and swiftly return to the friendship they have outside rowing.
The partnership is intensified when crews are away on camp together for weeks on end, and sharing a room means you get to know your crew-mate very well. Understanding how the other copes under pressure and prepares for races is key; while Ellie listens to music and reads a magazine before a race, Emily likes to keep busy with word searches. It is important to trust that your team-mate will do what they need to do to bring their A game to the starting line.
Emily and Ellie opened the season together with a strong performance at the first World Cup in Belgrade, culminating in a bronze medal. Unfortunately, since Belgrade Emily has been out of racing due to a back injury, but she’s hoping to be back to fitness for the World Championships in September.
Photographs by Naomi Baker