Hamish Adams: ‘Typically our guys are training seven days a week — every week’

Hamish Adams is a New Zealander living and working in Ireland for 15 years. Formerly player services manager with IRUPA, he is now chief executive of Rowing Ireland who have sent a 14-person team to Poznan, Poland for this weekend’s European Rowing Championship.

Q: So, what are the hopes/expectations for the team this weekend?

A:

We have a great balance of youth and experience. We’ve got Sinead Jennings who probably wouldn’t like me referring to her as a veteran, but she is a past world champion and World Cup medallist and is very focused about getting to Rio. She hasn’t been to an Olympics and she is a tough, world-class competitor. She is there or thereabouts in the lightweight single. Then we have some young rowers like Gary and Paul O’Donovan in the lightweight men’s doubles. Paul finished fourth in the world last year in the lightweight single sculls, but unfortunately it is not an Olympic event so now he has his brother to back him up and they are gunning for Rio as well. The one thing I would say about the lightweight categories in men’s and women’s is that they are so competitive and there is a huge number of boats fighting for a very limited number of spots.

Q:

We’re a shallow lot, the sporting public, so let’s cut to the chase: will we win any medals?

A:

I would personally have an expectation. There are 10 medals on offer there and Sanita Puspure was a bronze medallist last year in the women’s single and she went even better at the World Championships and finished fourth, which ranked her as the top European, so we have high hopes for her. Sinead Jennings is a medal prospect as well. We have a lot of performance indicators like boat speed and rankings and placings and that’s what we will be looking for from everyone. The lightweight men’s four is an experimental group so we don’t know what to expect there; it will be a challenge for them because it will be their first international regatta together.

Q:

Who are the powerhouses of European rowing?

A:

The Great Britain teams are strong, the Germanys, the Netherlands. You will find the Danes will have some strong crews, but quite a large number of the smaller countries will have a crew or two, as we do with the likes of Sanita who is an exceptional athlete and Sinead. Every country is going to produce one or two.

Q: Irish rowers have held medal ambitions in past Olympics and always came up short. What’s the goal for Rio?

A:

I believe Sanita is capable of winning an Olympic medal. There’s not too many athletes across all sports in Ireland that you could realistically say that about. That’s very positive. The other crews, like the lightweight men’s and lightweight women’s doubles, are still in their infancy so it is hard to say. They are not established on the world stage yet or winning medals on a consistent basis, but who says they can’t be pushing for a podium place in Rio?

Q:

Rowing has a reputation as a tough, punishing sport. Is that fair?

A:

It is a gruelling sport. Just physically with the amount of training time that you have to put in to build that aerobic base to race for seven or eight minutes on the water. Typically our guys are training seven days a week — every week — it works out at about 25-30 hours a week. Coming from a rugby background myself, you do need an aerobic base there, but nothing like the level that these guys have. Just the volume of grind and mental toughness they need. Rugby is a lot more intense and a power-based sport that requires some endurance so the mindset is totally different, although the incidence of injury is very low in rowing. It’s just about building that engine on a daily basis.

Q:

Your native New Zealand was always held up here as an example of a small sporting nation like ourselves punching above its weight. Are we catching up?

A:

Definitely. There has been massive change in my time here. I was involved with the Hurricanes academy with the New Zealand Rugby Football Union before I came over and as soon as an athlete came off the pitch there was a nutritionist giving drink A to one guy trying to put on weight and drink B to another guy trying to lose it. Just that detail around nutrition, training, preparation was much more advanced. When I left professional rugby three years ago we were already seeing that attention to detail here in Ireland in rugby. We have seen advances in the attention to strength and conditioning, the technical and tactical side and lifestyle, etc. It is all being catered for so it has come a long way in that time.

Q:

And what about across the board?

A:

I can only talk for Rowing Ireland, although I know it is similar for others, but Olympic sport here is not at that level. There is the not the physical resources there for it. Fair play to rugby, it has established those resources and systems, but Olympic sport is still, in my mind, playing catch-up with rugby, for sure. In fairness, though, the Irish government is starting to catch up with New Zealand who put a lot of money into support and infrastructure for sport. There is a realisation now that sport is a business and there is a lot of not only health benefits but massive economic benefits that can be gained from investing in it.

Q:

Will you throw an eye at the Pro12 final this weekend or is it rowing 24/7 now?

A:

I see snippets of rugby from time to time. I would like to see a bit more, but the time constraints in this role mean you do a lot of hours and a lot of travelling. That’s just part of it, but it is enjoyable. Rowers are just as passionate as rugby players when it comes to their sport. That’s my focus right now.

PHOTOGRAPH:

Des Barry/Irish Examiner


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