National centre set for busy weekend


ROWING:THE NATIONAL Rowing Centre will be busy this weekend as hundreds of athletes compete in the Skibbereen Head of the River tomorrow and an invited group of internationals, headed up by Olympian Sanita Puspure, take part in a training camp.

Chances are the big talking point will be the appointment of Martin McElroy, the recently-departed Ireland high performance director, as performance director for men’s rowing in Canada.

The Irishman effectively replaces legendary coach Mike Spracklen, whose departure has prompted controversy. The Globe and Mail reports that a group of 29 rowers, headed up by former greats Silken Laumann and Derek Porter (a Belfast man who won Olympic gold with Canada), are demanding an independent review, and Spracklen has spoken of being the target of a “vendetta” by rower Scott Frandsen.

However, Spracklen (75), who amassed a haul of Olympic medals as a coach in Britain, the US and Canada, has other critics. Among the most telling has been former Trinity oarsman Darren Barber (who won Olympic gold with Canada in 1992). In a letter in support of Frandsen he speaks of a system of favourites and fear and methods which qualify as Spartan.

Back in Cork, the weather forecast for tomorrow suggests all seven heads (time trials) will go ahead. Ireland coach Adrian Cassidy, who will continue in his job at least until the new Ireland HPD takes over, expects “eight to 10” at his camp which follows on from a junior camp last weekend. Justin Ryan has recovered from injury and Puspure is back in training with Rio her big goal.

The sparkle of gold from London ’12 will be in evidence tomorrow and Sunday at Boston’s Head of the Charles with at least 100-plus Olympians competing.

Coleraine’s Alan Campbell is part of a who’s who of scullers who form the “great eight”.

Ireland will stage the Fisa World Rowing Tour for the first time next year. About 80 participants, mostly from outside the country, will row from Carrick-on-Shannon to Limerick from June 15th to 22nd.

Michael O’Dwyer of host club St Michael’s said he has already had expressions of interest from as far away as Zimbabwe.

Applications for places at the Fisa coaches conference in Limerick in two weeks’ time, close today. The World Rowing Awards will be presented at the event.

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