Rowing Team Shines at 2024 Zhengzhou Student Challenge

School News June 13, 2024
Rowing Team Shines at 2024 Zhengzhou Student Challenge

On Friday May 10, 2024, 10 students from Wycombe Abbey Changzhou rowing team made their way up to Zhengzhou to participate to the 2024 Zhengzhou Longzi Lake Students Rowing Challenge, "Economic and Trade Cup", organized by Fenghe Rowing Club and Henan province. (中国•郑州.带一路“经贸杯”, 宕子湖学生赛艇挑战赛)

We arrived quite late but we still made a point to go to the club and prepare our boat and blades for the competition on the next day. On Saturday morning, after enjoying  a breakfast of champions, we headed to the opening ceremony in Henan University amphitheater. Here we realized how international the regatta was with crews from New Zealand, UK, Hungary, Austria and as well from Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China.

After the ceremony, we prepared for the first challenge: a 5.1 km race around the island, a pursuit with a new boat starting every 30 seconds. WASCZ registered 3 boats: a 4x girl junior (13/14 years old), a 2x girl junior (14/15 years old) and a 4x boys junior (13/14 years old). The route was challenging with several bridges and sharp turns, but all our boats completed the challenges in good time. Although the 4x girls junior encountered a small incident with another boat, they kept focused and succeeded to get back in rhythm together. The 2x girls made a strong impression as well keeping a strong pace all along. The 4x boys succeeded in passing several boats, supposedly faster, thanks to smart cornering and acceleration at the right moment.

All crews were really happy to complete the first challenge and prepare for the next one in the afternoon, a 500m sprint racing side by side. One could feel the nervousness rising as we approached the start time, and this made our 2 4x boats miss their start, but with great determination, they went back to their race plan and finally crossed the finish line in first position.

Then, the medal ceremony awarded the best crews in their respective categories. The strong team of Otago University (New Zealand) won 2 gold medals beating Cambridge, UK twice. All our 3 crews also received 2 gold medals for their performance, and everyone was happy with a competition in which we had competed well.

In the evening dinner, we exchanged gifts with different international clubs and took pictures with inspiring crews, that will help to create memories and goals for the future.

Our coaches were really proud of the attitude and perseverance of our students; they gained competition understanding and returned to school to share their experiences with classmates. It gives us good confidence for the development of our rowing program and our next scheduled events.

Below are some testimonies from our students:

Amily (G7/Blyton): This time, I participated in the competition in Longzi Lake, which benefited me a lot: the competition is not only a personal competition, but also a team contest. In the race teammates cooperate with each other and work together, as the saying goes: "four" people are of the same mind, its sharpness breaks gold." To get the best results. In a team competition I participated in, although we encountered some difficulties, we united as one, encouraged and supported each other in the face of adversity, and finally defeated our opponents and won the first place in 500 meters. This experience has made me understand that the power of teamwork is infinite, and only by trusting each other and forging ahead hand in hand can we achieve further heights.

Eva (G7/ Austen): My feelings after the competition: I was very nervous when I went because it was my first time to compete. To win is a glory, to win is about faith. Unity is strength. This competition has demonstrated our unity and strengthened our bonds. Unexpectedly, we actually won two gold medals, although it may be a little accidental, but still very exciting. This is not a victory for any one of us, but a victory for all of us. At first I was very afraid, because I knew my skills were not good, afraid of dragging down our group, and afraid of losing face in public. At the beginning of the row, because of an incident, everyone's mood become somewhat agitated, but in the end, we still stuck to it, and finally won the medal of joy is more that words. Overall, I was happy this time.

Summer (G7/Blyton): As a Grade 7 student, I am very honoured to participate in the Longzi Lake Rowing Student Challenge. Because we know the importance of the competition, we should carefully review the rules, understand the requirements, observe their problems, so that they can perform in the best state possible. There were big smiles on our faces when we stood on the stage to receive our gold medal after all our efforts. Through this competition, I finally understood that sentence: we are like those who hold a bow and arrow to a goal to strive to struggle and finally win "all."

Pete  (G8/Hawking/Bow seat): Overall it was very good for me, it was my first time to go out rowing. Zhengzhou was a very beautiful place, with hot weather and nice sunshine, I even got tanned. In the 5.1km we had a very good race, we only made 2 small mistakes but in the 500m, we did not start well and we had to get back together to catch the other boat and finally pass them after 200m.

Ben (G8/Hawking/#2 seat): It is new to me to go out for a rowing competition. It is a really special feeling similar to the first time I went out without my parents. Overall, the competition was not as easy as we thought. We made some little mistakes in the 500 m, but luckily, rowing well together we took the lead again. Our coach is strict, and for good reasons, an after the competition, I can claim I learned teamwork and passion on the boat and being kind to my mates.

Tiger (G8/Hawking/#3 seat): We had a very good first race in the 5100m. Pete, our bow seat in the boat, was keeping good direction, he did a very good job. We also rowed very well together. In the 500m sprint, our start was not good, and I hurt my hand but then we had a nice row in the last part and we passed the other boat to cross the line in first position. It is a good feeling for our first competition outside the school.

Edward (G8/Hawking/Stroke seat): Overall it was good, it was the first time for us to go out to a regatta after our experience last year in Changzhou. We had a great hotpot in the evening, it was delicious and maybe that helped us to make a good time for the 5.1km, as we raced in 22 minutes and 52 seconds.  We also met with rowing teams from different continents, and we exchanged gifts with Otaga. We are super happy to receive the medals. Yeah!

Luna (G7/ Fonteyn): I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to go to Zhengzhou for the competition with my classmates under the guidance of Ms. Belle. This was my first competition since joining WASCZ, and together with Viki, I rowed the women's double sculls. We achieved excellent results, winning first place in both the 5.1km and 500m races for the junior group.

I was a bit nervous during the competition. We barely arrived at the hotel in Zhengzhou on Friday night, and after dinner, we rushed to the boathouse to adjust the oars and select the racing boat. Ms. Belle and I were busy until nearly midnight before returning to the hotel. That night, I lay in bed and had trouble sleeping.

The competition officially began the next day with the 5.1km race. Viki and I carried the boat to the dock, launched it, and as the teacher pushed us off the dock, I was a bit dazed, thinking, "Is the race starting now?" And then it really began. Rowing the entire 5.1 m was not as tiring as I had imagined; I felt quite comfortable and even had the chance to chat with Viki, who was in the second seat. What moved me the most was that after we set off, Ms. Belle followed us on a bicycle, holding a loudspeaker, watching us finish the 5.1km race. This sense of being valued filled me with strength.

The 500m race in the afternoon was our last competition. With the experience from the morning, we were not too nervous. However, at the beginning of the row, our boat was very unstable because the oars didn’t catch the water properly. Clearly, both Viki and I were anxious at that moment, but we quickly calmed down and overtook our opponents after about one-third of the way. Although 500 meters sounds easy, when rowing at full power, around the 200-meter mark, your muscles fill with lactic acid, and your brain tells you to give up. I pushed through this with determination and finished the 500 meters beautifully.

Each victory made me feel particularly excited and joyful, not only because I won the medals but also because all the hard and exhausting training paid off. My previous efforts finally turned into a bullet, hitting the target on the podium.

Finally, I want to thank Ms. Belle for her steadfast support and nurturing. I also want to thank my teammate, Viki; she is an indispensable part of the double sculls. Without her, I might not have achieved such good results.

Viki (G9/Blyton): 5.1km – At the start, we didn’t control the depth of the oar well, which caused the boat to be unstable. Moving forward, we need to pay more attention to the stability of the first few strokes and control the depth of the oar in the water. We communicated continuously to maintain our course without much deviation. In the latter part, some of our movements became distorted; the lower back support was insufficient, the oar entered the water too slowly, and the point of oar rotation was not anticipated enough, leading to issues with the entry of the oar into the water. In the final few hundred meters, due to increasing stroke rate, the movements became unstable, resulting in a lack of underwater power. Thus, we did not increase the stroke rate much. We need to stabilize the movements and increase the stroke rate only after ensuring the oar enters the water quickly.

500m – The start had issues; the first stroke didn’t catch the water, causing us to fall behind right away. After stabilizing, we didn’t dare to increase the stroke rate quickly, so we only focused on adding power underwater, which felt like we weren’t fully using the strength of our legs and bodies. We need more practice to stabilize our movements and, on the premise of correct oar entry, practice maintaining a high stroke rate.

For both races, we are extremely grateful to Miss Belle Zhang. She followed us throughout both races, reminding us to be cautious at challenging points along the course and promptly correcting us when our movements had issues. During the final sprint, her constant encouragement gave us invisible strength. We are very thankful to the school for providing us with this enriching trip, which broadened our horizons and increased our rowing competition experience, helping us better prepare for future competitions, studies and life. We are also very grateful to our two accompanying teachers.