Gliding towards green and gold

Thursday 10 March 2016
Australia’s top rowers will descend on Sydney for the Australian Open Rowing Championships, held as part of the 2016 Sydney International Rowing Regatta (14-20 March).
  • Caitlin, Eloise and Blaine ahead of the Australian Open Rowing Championships
    Caitlin, Eloise and Blaine ahead of the Australian Open Rowing Championships

The University of Queensland’s assault will be spearheaded by Caitlin Cronin, Eloise Parker and Blaine Heseltine, with the trio aiming to earn selection to April’s National Under 23 Selection Regatta.

Ahead of the Nationals, UQ Sport caught up with the star rowers to check-in on preparations for the big meet.

Caitlin Cronin

Be honest, Caitlin – the Australian National Championships are right around the corner and it’s the biggest event on the Australian rowing calendar! Has there been sleepless nights heading into Nationals?

Not really sleepless nights, I’m normally pretty tired so I sleep pretty well! But yes, a little bit nervous, and pretty excited – it’s what we’ve been training for all year. I came back from Melbourne about three weeks ago, so I’ve just been settling back into being in Brisbane, and going back to uni with training every morning and afternoon.

Just on Melbourne, we understand you’ve been working there as part of a significant chemical engineering internship. Can you tell us a little about that, and how you’ve balanced training?

I did a 12-week vacation work program with ExxonMobil as part of my engineering work experience. So I was living in Melbourne for about three months, and I trained out of Mercantile Rowing Club down there. It was fulltime work – 8am-to-5pm every day, so it made training kind of hard. But I sort of just fit it in in the morning or after work each day. Down in Melbourne everything is really close to each other, so I was training a five-minute walk from Yarra, near where I was working. I basically just did what I could to make sure I got enough training in.

You had great results at February’s NSW Rowing Championships, winning both the Under 23 Single Scull and Open Women’s Quad Scull. You’re targeting a berth in the Australian Under 23 Rowing Team – how close do you feel you are to achieving that goal?

It’s always hard to say how close you are to achieving it, because anything can change at any time. But I think NSW States was a good start to that, coming out on top in the Singles. Hopefully I can perform well at Nationals and get through to the Australian trials. We’ll see what happens.

No doubt conditions could be vastly different this time around in Sydney, but do you feel you have an advantage returning to a venue you’ve had recent success at?

It’s always nice, SIRC (Sydney International Regatta Centre) is a great venue to go back to. The conditions are usually pretty good. Having done a few races on the course there certainly sends you into Nationals feeling positive about it. No bad memories or anything!


Caitlin, Eloise and Blaine ahead of the Australian Open Rowing Championships

UQ Boat Club's star rowers have been in training for the Australian Open Rowing Championships since last November.


Blaine Heseltine

UQ Boat Club Head Coach Zoltan Shepherd is never short on words of encouragement – has he passed on any wisdom heading into Sydney?

I think what he tells me and what he wants me to do is to trust the speed. That’s the big thing he tells me. When I’m on the water I’ve just got to follow my race plan. If I’m behind at 500m I need to trust that I’m going to be in front when it comes to the 1500m mark. You just trust the speed from the training you’ve done.

A solid showing for you at the NSW Rowing Championships with Gold in the Men’s Open Lightweight Double Scull, and 3rd in the Under 23 Lightweight Single Scull. Looking back, how did you sum up your performance?

I think it was a really good start to the next couple of months. Hopefully I can transform that performance from NSW States to the Nationals. I know the field hasn’t really changed at all, so hopefully I can see myself get a Bronze or even higher down there.

What are the key improvements you need to make to force you way into reckoning to be selected for both the Under 23s Australian squad?

I was pretty much up the front until the last 400m (Lightweight Single Scull race at the NSW Rowing Championships). I was rowing some training pieces last week that should see me right up the front coming into the last 100m of the race now. I think everything that I’ve taken away and learnt from that race I have built on and can transform now.

You’ve represented Australia before at Under 21 level, but how big an honour is it to be selected to pull on the green and golf for your country?

It’s a different experience. The second you do it you realise it’s going to be a lot more intense, and you really have to knuckle down and get into it because you know your opposition isn’t going to let you win easily. It’s just another step up from a National level.


Cool, calm and collected - the trio will compete in Sydney in the biggest competition on the rowing calendar.


Eloise Parker

Some people get butterflies leading into a massive event like Nationals, while others seem to take the increased pressure in their stride. How are your emotions heading into the big one?

I’m pretty chilled. I don’t really get too nervous, I don’t know why. Maybe the hour before the race I’ll start to get a little bit nervous. Apart from that, I’m pretty relaxed.

Can you give us a snapshot of how long preparations for the Nationals have been going on for, and what’s been your training routine over the past few months?

Rowing is a lot about fitness – if you’re not fit, you won’t go as well in a 2km race. Because it’s very much an aerobic sport, we’ve been training ever since November and December. The first couple of months are very fitness-based. We have Queensland States in January, so the week leading up to that we’ll do a bit of race prep, and then after that we come back down and do a bit more fitness work. Since NSW States, we’ve really only been doing high-rate training, which is a bit more threshold type work to get prepared for the racing.

You placed 3rd at the NSW Rowing Championships in the Under 21 Women’s Pair, but are focusing on your attention on qualifying in the Women’s Sweep. Good form going in, but how do you like your chances?

I was kind of surprised by how well we (rowing partner, Kelly Drenth) went, because we have only been training together for three weeks or so, so we hadn’t had any race experience together yet. It was good leading into Nationals – it gives you a bit of a confidence boost. That’s been especially important as the past two weeks I’ve been battling a little bit of an injury.

What’s been the issue? Is it a bad one?

A really common injury in rowing is to get a stress reaction fracture on your ribs. So I’ve got a really mild stress reaction fracture which you have to be really careful with, so you can’t do too much training, otherwise it can progress to a fracture. When you have a fracture, you can’t row anymore, so you have to take a few weeks off the water to let it heal. So this week, I’ve only been rowing every second morning. Initially, I was meant to be racing in four events at Nationals, but I’ve had to drop one of them so I could manage the others. But the race that I dropped wasn’t one of the big races, so it’s okay.

With the rib thing it’s kind of like you just have to row through a bit of pain. The last couple of sessions I’ve had on the water, I’ve been getting a little bit sore on the water, but it’s just something you have to deal with, with that kind of injury.

It’d be a huge shot in the arm for the UQ Boat Club to get one – if not all three of your teammates – into Australian squads. What’s the feeling been like around the club ahead of the event?

Nationals is definitely a bit more exciting compared to NSW States. With that event, they only take the top 15 athletes, but with Nationals, it’s almost 40 athletes. It definitely provides a bit more of an exciting atmosphere having the young kids down there that look up to you a bit, and all that sort of thing.


Jamie Mitchell

Jamie is UQ Sport's PR and Comms Specialist. He's a sportaholic with an unhealthy amount of jerseys in his wardrobe. You'll find Jamie playing social sport most afternoons, or gritting his teeth in the gym trying to lift weights.