Rowing: Illness strikes Cambridge team

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The Independent Online

Disaster struck Cambridge on Wednesday night when their stroke, Shane O’Mara, was dropped on medical advice after he was unwell on Tuesday night.

Ryan Monaghan, stroke of the reserve crew Goldie, was moved into the seat last night when the crew took to the water under a brooding sky and heavy rain to try out the new line-up.

Duncan Holland, Cambridge’s chief coach, said: “We have been advised by the doctor that O’Mara will not be fit to race on Saturday. There is a great deal of sadness, but his illness is not life-threatening or long-term. We have been forced to make the change because of illness, but we will put out the best eight we have on the day, and we believe our best eight can win.”

The occupant of the stroke seat in an eight sets the rhythm and the rate of striking (or strokes per minute), and is the only member of the crew in direct communication with the cox. It is thus crucial that the stroke responds to what the cox can see and can judge whether those behind him can stay with the pace he sets. He also needs to be a tenacious racer and cool in battle— this is not a seat for a quitter.

“The stroke is most exposed member of the crew,” Holland says.

O’Mara, who came to Cambridge from Northeastern University, Boston, has suffered from exercise-induced arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) in the past. If this is his current complaint, the good news is that it is cannot be passed along the crew.

His replacement, Monaghan, is a Cornell graduate who experienced his first outing in the driving seat last night. He has two days to get up to speed with the minutiae of the Blue boat’s rowing style which may differ from that of Goldie. “There is pressure, but you do what you have to do to win. It doesn’t impact me so much,” he said.