Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Rowing: Athlete racing to heal back

Carl Meyer. Photo / NZPA
Carl Meyer. Photo / NZPA

Rowing veteran Carl Meyer's dream of attending a third and final Olympic Games is in the balance as he attempts to overcome a back injury in time for the national trials late next month.

Known as "Bootcamp" because of his phenomenal work ethic, the 30-year-old returned to the sport last year. He had a two-year break working as an engineer in Melbourne after disappointment at the Beijing Olympics. His coxless four crew missed the final and finished seventh despite going in as world champions.

Such is his value, the selectors reinstated him immediately in the bow of the four last year. The crew of Meyer, fellow 2007 world champion James Dallinger, Ben Hammond and Chris Harris finished second at the Hamburg World Cup, although fields were weaker because of an e.coli outbreak in the city.

They backed up with sixth at the Lucerne World Cup. Meyer then suffered a bulging disc in his back which ruled him out of the world championships in August. Men's eight bowman Jade Uru replaced him but the coxless four slumped to eighth (second in the B final).

Such an injury normally takes up to a year to come right but Meyer does not have the luxury of time. He is on an intense rehabilitation programme involving rowing, cycling and Pilates, complemented by regular afternoon pram walks with 10-month-old son Tom so his wife Caroline (nee Evers-Swindell) can rest.

Meyer has graduated to a singles sculls boat, doing close to two hours on the water. He combines that with either an exercycle session (1-2 hours) or road bike around Cambridge (2-3 hours). There are strictly no weights. It is more about focusing on strengthening his core muscles, hence the use of Pilates and the Swiss ball.

"Pilates is no silver bullet but it keeps you aware of things like posture," Meyer says. "I've been using the Swiss ball to improve my core stability which involves sit-ups and trying to maintain my balance while standing on one. That's had its moments - I've suffered my fair share of embarrassment falling on to grass.

"There have been times when I wondered who I was kidding [coming back] but it's been great to make significant progress over the last couple of months. This is definitely my last opportunity to go to a Games."

Meyer expects little sympathy from the selectors.

While an incumbent but rehabilitating world champion might get a degree of compassion, decisions are largely dependent on a stopwatch.

"I understand the process; there are no favours. Plus I've been out of the boat so long, I'd take any position available whether it's the men's [coxless] four, the quad or the eight."

- Herald on Sunday

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