THERE’S two types of wins in sport.
There’s victory when you’re expected to win, often easier said than done.
And then there’s the triumph against all odds.
The feeling gained after the latter makes victory all the more special - just ask former Kinross Wolaroi rowing pair Tom and Daniel Whitehead.
Part of the Sydney University Boat Club (SUBC) men’s eight team that travelled to St Catharine’s, Canada, for the Canadian Henley, the Whitehead boys played leading roles in helping the Sydney University crew claim the Elite Championship Men’s Eight race, an event no one expected the young Australian team to even contest.
“It was completely unexpected,” Tom said, the race held on August 10.
“We went into the race with nothing to lose. We’d had a second place in the under 23s men’s eight but that was completely different to the opens.
“It was just an awesome feeling.”
The Sydney Uni crew was up against some heavy hitting rowing squads, with the likes of New York Athletics Club and Boston University sending crews to St Catharine’s for the championship.
After a second place in the under 23s men’s eights division on day one, the Sydney University crew stepped up to the seniors event the very next day and, faced with more advanced and mature opposition, the Australia team finished a disappointing fourth.
Boasting an incredibly young squad, one Whitehead said was close to 19 in average age, the SUBC crew went into its final race with nothing to lose.
Establishing a solid mid-race rhythm just before the first 500-metre mark, the university crew went stroke-by-stroke and, after hitting second place at the 1000m mark, Whitehead and company then swept past British Columbia by the 1250m mark and hit the lead.
By the 1750m, just 250 metres until the finish line, Whitehead said the crew knew first place was theirs.
“We were pretty excited at that point,” Whitehead recalled.
“We were pulling away from boats that had previously beaten us. We were in front by a boat-length-and-a-half. They came back at us, we knew they would, but we were able to hold them off.
“It was an awesome feeling.”
He said three weeks of hard work in Canada all came together in the final race.
“A lot of that work came into play. Team work, consistency ... we put it all together,” Whitehead added.
“All of the north American and Canadian crews like to come out of the gate fast, and it’s a different style of rowing to what we’re used to in Australia where it’s all about remaining consistent.
“It took us a little while to get used to that.”