Andrew Alderson

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

Olympics: British medal 'tactics' didn't phase Kiwis

Storm Uru and Peter Taylor are happy with their bronze medals despite being part of a controversial final contest. Source / Brett Phibbs NZ Herald
Storm Uru and Peter Taylor are happy with their bronze medals despite being part of a controversial final contest. Source / Brett Phibbs NZ Herald

Exactly when is a rowing seat broken?

The answer dictated the difference between lightweight men's double Peter Taylor and Storm Uru earning a silver or a bronze medal on Dorney Lake.

As it happened they took bronze but it required some detailed analysis by the race umpire; and later the jury when protests were filed.

The British boat of Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter pulled out of the original race within the permissible first 100m with a broken seat. That meant a restart 11 minutes later.

The Brits paddled to the side of the course and Purchase was observed going DIY with a screwdriver to fix the problem. In the BBC commentary box Sir Steven Redgrave uttered "if it is not a breakage... make sure it is" before the umpire assessed their case.

Mahe Drysdale used the same tactic during the 2010 world championships final at Lake Karapiro when stickers slipped off his boat.

Denmark's Mads Rasmussen and Rasmus Quist ended up taking gold by 0.61s in a bow-to-bow finish over Britain with New Zealand a further 3.08s back. It was New Zealand's first Olympic medal in a lightweight rowing boat since the introduction of those disciplines to the Games in 1996.

The rules of rowing governing body FISA state: "If a crew, while still in the start zone, sustains damage to its boat or equipment then a member of the crew shall raise his arm to indicate there is a problem. The Starter or the Umpire shall stop the race. The Umpire shall then decide on the steps to be taken, after consulting (if necessary) with the President of the Jury."

The rules go further: "The Umpire shall decide, after having examined the damage, whether the claim was justified and shall (if necessary) apply any appropriate penalties."

The race restarted fine but New Zealand lightweight double coach Calvin Ferguson was confused by the ruling. However, he declined to protest.

"I do have a question about that. I'm not 100 per cent sure what happened - there's a bit of video footage that's been checked. However, we wanted to race the Brits, the Danes and the French. I did think about it [protesting] but felt it wasn't going to change anything.

"It has to be if the seat had broken within the first 100m and they have to replace the seat. They took the seat off but put it back on. There was some doubt but obviously the officials checked it and said it was okay."

Purchase, whose seat was at the centre of the controversy, was vague explaining what went wrong.

"One of the wheels was a bit loose and jammed at the sides. If it's not moving you can't row so I had to get it straightened out. It was a bit of a shock, it's not often you have equipment failure. I don't know exactly what happened but it caused the seat to twist and jam."

It raised the question over when breakages are simply carelessness.

Still, Uru and Taylor would rather have raced the British than have them booted.

"That's what the officials are there for," Uru said. "I don't want to sit around reading rulebooks. They're too bloody boring and send you to sleep. I have full of confidence in what the officials decided. It didn't affect us and we went about our business."

Taylor was phlegmatic about the decision: "A race is a race and we came third. [The false start] had little effect on our energy. I didn't even start to feel the burn before we had to stop. It was just a practice start for us. There was no problem turning around and doing it again."

Uru said it was more important to race the best in the world: "It was great that they did the restart. It would've been weird not knowing if you would've beaten them."

The double now have their minds on other things, like gaining permission to beef up beyond their combined maximum racing weight of 140kg. The buffet is calling.

"I intend to take full advantage of that in the coming days," Uru said. "I need to get rid of these ribs and veins. They're all over the show. We'll be heavyweights by the end of the day, definitely by tomorrow," he laughed.

"It's been a bloody intense four years; just a rollercoaster we've put everything into. I need a holiday. I'm looking forward to weeks of doing nothing; no plans."

- NZ Herald

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