Pocock on Redgrave

Today I watched a video of an American rower I had never heard of, only then to discover that today – 2 May – is the anniversary of his death at the early age of 43 in 1977.

Seymour ‘Sy’ Cromwell won 7 (seven!) US championships in the single sculls, and in 1964 he won the Diamond Sculls at Henley and took the silver medal in the double sculls event at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. I tip my hat to you, sir (the first Cromwell I have admired).

Stan Pocock narrates the video clip. He starts off by critiquing slo-mo footage of:

But most of the video is a critique of Steven Redgrave and Andy Holmes (mostly Redgrave), 1988 Olympic Champions in the coxless pair at Seoul.

The poor quality of the video makes it hard going at times, but the audio is good and the commentary enthralling.

I am fascinated by how Pocock can quickly see things – good and bad – in people’s technique. If you obsess about getting your blade(s) covered early, you are in good company here.

Here are some of Stan Pocock’s observations on Redgrave as he watches the last 500 m of the Olympic final at Seoul (from 9’34” to 27’20”):

  • “He does get in quick – boy, he does.”
  • “No body action after the blades are down – that’s great.”
  • “He’s not pretty… he looks a lot like Con, with a great hunched back”.
  • “See how solid they are at the end of the drive – the bodies are absolutely braced there; it allows the squeeze of the arms and shoulders to complete the stroke”.
  • They carry the blades “tight to the water” even though they don’t use the flip/sculler’s catch.
  • Redgrave’s seat being still opposite the oarlock when the blade is fully buried – “super effective”.
  • “I’d rather see them rock out more, spring away earlier, into a more early lean out to keep under control; maybe they’d get a little more surge out of that recovery… This is where we have the potential to go faster yet”.
  • “He’s ready to explode, isn’t he?” [Redgrave’s compression at catch]
  • “You must have the back trying to move the oar” [on Redgrave using his back at the catch – 19’45”].
  • “I don’t think you’re ever going to see anything much better than this.” [20’50”]

The video ends with the Italian lightweight 8+ in 1989 at Bled winning their 5th straight world championship. Stan suggests they could go even faster if rigged to have a bigger arc 🙂


P.S. If you know who the second narrator is, please tell. And thanks to Jim Buckley for sharing this video on YouTube.

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