Rowing: NZ can do better, Strachan says

Nearing his 10th decade, Fred Strachan is as passionate as ever about rowing. He looks back on a great year for the sport with Alistair McMurran.

Fred Strachan (right), the former coach of Hamish Bond (left), at the World Rowing Championships...
Fred Strachan (right), the former coach of Hamish Bond (left), at the World Rowing Championships at Lake Karapiro, in November 2010. Photo by Graeme Bond.
Rowing guru Fred Strachan is a perfectionist. He believes New Zealand rowers could do better at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics if they improve their technique.

New Zealand rowers won five medals - three gold and two bronze - at the London Olympics. It was the sport's best medal haul at an Olympic Games.

Strachan (89) was a national selector for 24 years and played a key role in making New Zealand rowing respected in the international arena.

He has coached rowing for 60 years and has always been a stickler for style. He wants his rowers to use the correct technique.

Strachan was proud of the success at the London Olympics.

''The hard training regime got them there but I'd like to see them row with a better technique,'' he said. Strachan predicts it will be more difficult winning medals in Rio de Janeiro.

''It is important for our rowers to get up to speed with their technique,'' he said.

He wants New Zealand Rowing to have a plan for the next four to six years that will keep the sport at the top of the tree domestically and in the international arena.

Strachan wants to see new blood given a chance and a bigger New Zealand team compete at next year's world championships.

''It will be an easier year so it is an opportunity to bring on the younger rowers and get them up to scratch, rather than have them sit on the bench while the top rowers occupy a limited number of boats.''

Strachan was always a strong advocate of the eight and this policy was justified by the Olympic gold medal in Munich in 1972.

''We originally did that because of financial considerations and the prestige,'' he said.

''We couldn't boat other crews because we didn't have any money to do it.

''The eight is still a prestige event internationally. I'd still like New Zealand to do well in the eight. But to do that at the moment we would have to use the top-line rowers and sideline the pair.''

Strachan was pleased by the results at the London Olympics and agreed the policy of concentrating on the smaller boats has been successful.

''High Performance Sport New Zealand count the medals. If we had boated an eight we probably wouldn't have picked up another two medals. Their funding directs where we go,'' he said.

Strachan hopes gold medallists Hamish Bond and Eric Murray will stay together in the pair.

''They were the only two guys in sweep oar rowing that performed. The men's eight and the lightweights failed to qualify for the Olympics and the four was disappointing. We have to get sweep oar rowing back on track.''

Strachan coached Bond for eight years and was in England to see him win the gold medal.

''It was nice to see Hamish cap his career with the gold medal, break the world record and do it so convincingly,'' he said.

''He's been a good performer for New Zealand.''

Strachan has coached more than 60 rowers who have gone on to represent New Zealand at junior, intermediate, senior and Olympic level.

He has coached rowing at Otago Boys' High School for the past 15 years but his crews have yet to win an elite Maadi Cup title.

The senior boys pair has finished runner-up on three occasions: Bond and Carl Haugh, Carl Meyer and Blair Collie, and Grant Fahey and Dave Waddell.

He could get the elusive Maadi Cup win at Lake Karapiro next year, with James McNichol and Jack Waddell, who won the bronze medal this year.



Fred Strachan
Rowing guru

• Age: 89.
• Clubs: Avon, North End.
• NZ selector: 1964-88.
• Coaching: Sixty New Zealand representatives including Olympians Trevor Coker, Ivan Sutherland, Dave Lindstrom, Athol Earl, Hamish Bond, Carl Meyer.

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