In the third race review of the series, World Rowing caught up with Great Britain’s rowing legend, Matthew Pinsent, to look back at his memories of the A-final in the men’s pair at the 1994 World Rowing Championships in Indianapolis, United States.

Already an Olympic Champion from Barcelona 1992, Pinsent was in his second Olympiad with his eyes firmly on taking a second gold in Atlanta 1996. There was no doubting the strength of the World Best Time-setting duo of Pinsent and Steve Redgrave, but their dominance did not come without its challenges. In this 1994 World Championship final they faced battles both on and off the water. Pinsent tells us more:

Before the race
“Before the start Steve had discovered a hairline crack in one of their riggers and so we had a big discussion about whether we should have another rigger made or try to delay the race. Steve asked the boat manufacturer if he thought it would break and he said ‘no, probably not,’ so we decided to put it out of our minds and race with it. It was hard not to (think about it) and we had to turn the boat only one way on the water during the warm up because we were worried that backing it down on the side of the crack would open it up.”

On the start
“We had raced the Germans in Lucerne and had beaten them by a foot on the line after rowing through them from a length and a half down, and we set a new World Best Time doing it.

Because we had spent so long turning the boat (during the warm up, because of the cracked rigger) we got a false start and so sitting on the start line we were on a warning.”

I always thought that the Germans had false-started this race but (after watching it again, frame by frame) they actually didn’t, and in that case look at how terrible our start is! Because we had the false start I thought we should just wait for the flag.”

First 500m
“The Germans did exactly the same thing as they had done in Lucerne which was start really fast and try and get away from us as quick as they could. At 250m gone we were nearly a length down when we were normally fast starters in the field, so it was a real test of, ‘can you find your own rhythm.Can you do your own thing even when there is someone ahead of you.When there is someone dominating you can you have confidence in your own boat.’ And so the first part of the race became about damage limitation; the Germans were a length up and we’re battling with everyone else trying to get back on terms with them but we’re actually not moving against other people.”

Chasing dominance
“We were slipping back on Canada and Australia who were in second and third and Germany were miles ahead of us. I don’t think I looked (to see how far the Germans were ahead), I’d be very surprised if I did. It was just a matter of Steve saying, ‘do this, do that’ and staying as aggressive as we could. If I had realised we were 2.3 seconds back… But this was similar to what had happened to us in Lucerne; we were clear water down there and the same thing was happening to us again.

Coming up to the half-way point we started moving back on Canada and Australia. It was a minimum requirement for us to be in second and not tussling with people further back. By this point I think we were in second, or close enough anyway!”

Second half of the race
“From this point onwards Steve was just saying, “right, let’s do a 15/20 stroke effort” and we would do it and he would say to go again, and again, and again. The pushes just carried on coming as he felt we were running out of lake; that if we gave them (Germany) another minute out there we would just never catch them, however much quicker we were at the end. Being that far being you can do quite well from 15 strokes, but you just don’t see any difference because it’s not like you have them in your eye-line all the time.”

Final 500m
“With 500m left to go we were still more than a length behind and we were getting into the ‘last chance saloon,’ and we just start mashing it. Then, within a few strokes we took a canvas on them and that was the first time I saw them again. So with 50 strokes left I was thinking ’yeah, I can give it some more here. I’ll do something and see if it works.’ The Germans were really fighting here to try and get back away again and if they had I think they would have won, but we were just MOVING. This is exactly what had happened in Lucerne; with 250m to go when we just got ahead and it was like we got within two meters of them and they said to themselves ‘we don’t want this again’ – it had hurt so much in Lucerne. After a push here we took the lead and Steve was saying ‘we’ve got them, we’ve got them!’”

And they did.

Crossing the line
“Having trained for six or eight weeks we were quite disappointed with that (the race), having said we didn’t want to let that (Lucerne performance) happen again and we don’t want to let them back ahead to dominate us the way they did.

They came up to us after the race and said ’we don’t think we can beat you, we are going to go back into the eight‘ and we didn’t race them again.

It was a really seminal moment in our time, between 1992 and 1996 in that if we had lost I think we would have really struggled all the way up to 1996 with people, the Germans amongst others. But having defended twice that season the way we did, and the Germans going into the eight, it sort of cemented our position as favourites in that event right up through to Atlanta – but it was only just.”