Ramblings from my WMG Experience by Gerry G

It was a terrific experience to compete at the WMG. The regatta was really well organized and it was a great privilege to row the Olympic course.
The atmosphere was really friendly and I met lots of people from all over the world. The officials were also really friendly and did not get too angry at crews arriving a bit late to the start line…personally this meant that I got to sit at the start in the cold and rain in my single waiting for a few old guys to turn up for the G quad just prior… but it was all good fun.
I also enjoyed a couple of rows as a fill in for crews I did not know, an extra challenge!
An early highlight was Derek strolling the regatta with a sign around his neck advertising his services as coxswain with the days and times he was available. At times people eager to take his phone number surrounded him and he was no doubt a very valuable addition to many crews.
Masters rowing is in age categories depending on the average age of the crew and it is great to see crews in I (av age 75-80) division and J division (80-85). I think the oldest rower was in his 90’s.
In the athletics one woman cleaned up all the medals in the 100+ category…she was pretty handy with the hammer throw! I must say that really you can’t control who else turns up so it’s not your fault if there is not too much competition in your age group!
However, the regatta was sadly cut short because of high winds on Day 4. It’s difficult to describe exactly how windy it was. It really whipped up during the heats of the A women’s double sculls and caused great havoc. About half the boats coming down the course had their bow numbers blown right off and many boats could not stay in their lane: one was meant to be in Lane 3 but was traveling in Lane 10.
The lighter women in lighter boats really struggled. Women were clearly rowing very hard yet barely moving and those who stopped at the finish line got blown back and had to cross again! At one stage the announcer said of one boat that he was not sure if it was coming last in the race before or winning the next race!
Shortly after these races racing was suspended and then cancelled for the day. Sadly many people thus missed their priority event, including Martin and Dennis in the double and the girls in a B eight, and of course it was hugely disappointing for many international competitors.
The weather forecast for Day 5 was similar but it started off as a glorious sunny day and RRC picked up some medals early in the day in the mixed double sculls and quads. Day 5 was all mixed racing which is a lot of fun because 1) it is fun and everyone knows that boats go faster with women in them 2) there are more medals up for grabs since crews are placed into divisions and medal awarded in each division race. It sounds easy but you still have to beat at least 6 other equally determined crews to be in the medals!
Sadly the Premier Event we were looking forward to, the Mixed A quad of Nicole, Emma, Dennis and Martin, reigning Australian Champions and our Gold Medal Hope was cancelled when once again the wind whipped up at about 9.45 am and the regatta was cancelled. Of all the things that you think might go right or wrong when preparing for an event I must say I had not personally considered that the event might not happen at all, and given the training this crew dedicated themselves to it was really tragic that they did not get their opportunity to claim their reward.
The day after the regatta finished a few of us went to see the kayaking and noted that it was still blowing a gale in Penrith, so even an extra day would not have helped.
Personally I was very disappointed with the all RRC A quad missing the final by 0.6 seconds in a time which would have won the heat prior…but then sport is full of such near miss stories, I believe it’s called the luck of the draw.
After the regatta was cancelled we did make the most of the opportunity to look at other sports, including volleyball, badminton, weightlifting and diving.
For me a highlight was the 70-79 diving! I watched one guy called Reg and his final dive was a sort of sideways dive which I didn’t think was too bad at all and was shocked when a couple of judges gave him zero! His total (of a possible 70) for the dive was only 5. Now I think that if you dive from the 3m spring board and you land in the water that’s worth at least one point, don’t you agree? Needless to say Reg did not figure in the medals.
I also saw Beverley, whom we had spotted at the official practice the day before, a plump lady who seemed to specialize in both front and back belly whackers, although she did pull of a very graceful swan dive from the 1m board. There were lots of hold your breath moments!
But don’t get me wrong, the standards in the sports was actually very high, with many competitors being ex Olympians/ international competitors. I met a woman who won 2 medals in rowing I (75- 80) including a double scull so I immediately sent a text to Peta (with whom I rowed the double scull) to say that really we just need to stick at it for another 30 years and we will get there too!
I met Beryl, who won silver in the Recreational over 70’s doubles tennis. She told me that during the match she actually fell over and thought she would take the opportunity while lying on the ground to have a short rest. Her partner Cyril then pretended to do CPR on her and it was all very funny until her opponent threatened to report a time violation! Beryl had a good chuckle about it.
It was actually really inspiring to see older people out there doing things and competing and enjoying themselves although I would have found the over 80 pole vault (yes really) too stressful to watch just from a purely orthopaedic viewpoint! However from what I understand no major injuries occurred.
Instead of ‘swifter, higher, stronger’ apparently the mantra is ‘older, greyer, wiser.’ It was all good fun and I am grateful to my fellow RRC competitors for all the support, especially Dennis who helped me a lot with my boat and who hardly got to row himself.
Hopefully more members will take up the challenge of Master’s rowing! If we head off to Italy in 4 years time for the next WMG however, we will all perhaps have an indoor ‘second’ sport to compete in just in case of inclement weather….
Geraldine Goss