Issue 106 - March 1998
Just over a year ago Mike Spracklen had three regulars at his daily 'open house' training sessions for aspirants to the women's national squad - Cath Bishop, Lisa Eyre, and Gillian Lindsay. Having just moved back to his native town from the Californian dreamland of San Diego, he was not a happy person. Now he has 18 women rowing and sculling from the Marlow Scout Camp six days a week, with three more regulars at weekends who train hard elsewhere during the week. Interest is growing all the time. 'I never turn people away, but I can no longer offer open house. I have to discourage them now,' he says. 'I can't coach a greater number of people. But it is a very healthy scene.'
Four world championship medals at Aiguebelette last year - two open, two lightweight - has helped. It has brought in women who did not attend Marlow last season, such as Guin and Miriam Batten, Sue Walker, Jo Nitsch and Jane Hall, and attracted some talented newcomers like Sarah Winckless. It has also changed attitudes. 'If anybody in the whole group is absent it's unusual,' Spracklen says. 'They are out every day except Sunday, with half days on Wednesdays and Saturdays. They are training at a higher level. They are very industrious and businesslike. Last year there was constant whinging for the first three or four months. Now they have confidence in themselves and they know what they are doing. I always reckon that whinging is only insecurity. Complaining is negative and can only be detrimental. Our only whinge now is that we don't have our own boathouse.'
The squad was in Banyoles, Spain, for a 12-day camp in February. They had only two days of sunshine, but despite the rain and cold, the water was excellent and the expedition well worth while, according the women's chief national coach. One factor that has made a substantial difference to the attendance at Marlow is substantial funding now available from the Lottery Sports Fund to the athletes. 'Our only complaint now,' Spracklen says, 'is that we don't have a home. The Scout Camp is good, but the boat racks are in the open and its difficult to keep the equipment clean. Several of the girls have their own boats and have made considerable investment. But we have the equipment we need, and Marlow Rowing Club is extremely hospitable, opening the doors to its kitchen every day for our coffee and meal breaks.'
Like Jurgen Gröbler on the men's side (see last month's Regatta), Spracklen is under no illusions about the challenge ahead. 'The Aiguebelette result was great, but the standard has definitely gone up. I've heard that the Americans and Canadians havenow got their act together, and they won't be the only ones. We are expecting a tough season. Whatever the result, it won't be for want of trying.'
Some crews may be sent to Duisberg Regatta, while there will certainly be a substantial entry for the first round of the Rowing World Cup in Munich.
© Copyright Regatta Magazine, 1998.
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