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AN ABRUPT END TO PARTICIPATION IN ONE SPORT CAN OPEN THE DOOR TO NEW OPPORTUNITIES AND EXPERIENCES IN ANOTHER – JUST ASK 2XU'S KIM CROW.
In 2004, Kim Crow went to the Australian Olympic trials for the 400m hurdles and came second to Jana Pittman, who was World Champion at the time. The following year, acute stress fractures in both feet cut short her running career – she was told if she kept trying to run, she might not be able to walk later in life. In 2012, Kim went to the Olympic Games as a heavyweight rower and won a silver medal in the double scull and a bronze medal in the single scull.
It's a scenario that could happen to any of us – an injury or other chronic physical issue might force us to give up the sport we love. Here Kim Crow – a ‘poster girl' for successfully crossing over to another sport – tells us what you need to consider.
"I had my first stress fracture at 17 and for three or four years I tried to rehab it. I'm quite meticulous in the way I go about things, so I was very meticulous in the rehab process. I did everything that was suggested for the injury. I did all the core stability stuff, Pilates, water running, every exercise suggested by the physio. I tried all the nutritional strategies – you name it, I tried it. I look back and I'm quite proud and how hard I fought, but I can see that the writing was on the wall a long time before I had accepted it. So I needed something that didn't have impact on my feet."
Kim saw the talent transfer people at the Victorian Institute of Sport and, based on height/weight profiling, lever length, limb length and other measures, they suggested three sports to her – swimming, kayaking and beach volleyball. Rowing didn't even come up.
"I find it quite funny when people look at me these days and say, 'You're just made for rowing'. I've had to put on 20kg (over the course of five years) so I have the strength, power and build I need for rowing."
"I know I have an advantage because I'm tall, but there are just as many people who excel in sports who don't have that perfect build for their sport. They overcome that just by mastering the strengths that they do have and making the best of them."
"A lot of people will write off a sport as inappropriate for them because they don't have the right physiology, but physiology is malleable. You can teach yourself so many things."
"I was a 400m sprinter – fast-twitch muscle, very little strength at all yet alone upper body strength, and very little aerobic capacity. (NB – 400m takes around 55 seconds for a world-class female hurdler, while Kim won the 2013 World Championship for the single scull in 7:31:34).In rowing, a typical day means clocking up 7-8 hours of training. We do huge volume. It's a very aerobic-based sport, but also power-based. I needed to get stronger, change my physique and physiology. All of those things you can do through training."
"One of the hardest things I had to do was develop the ability to concentrate for longer. When I started rowing I had the ability to work really hard, but to actually be able to concentrate and be aware of what your body is doing, what your blade's doing, how you're feeling, how you're breathing is a very complex thing to do and it's something that develops with practice. However, it's something you can cultivate in other areas – I think it helped that I could sit through law exams and really concentrate, but I still had to work on it."
"The thing that frustrated me most early on is how much time you spend frigging around getting the boat in and out of the water – when you go for a run, you run and you're done! Now I'm so used to it that it's like it almost doesn't happen. For a while, too, it seemed really strange to me that a sport could be so dependent on the weather – often we get really rough water, which makes it almost impossible to row."
"When I started, I thought the hardest thing would be to row with a crew. Coming from an individual sport where I had full responsibility for my performance, I thought I'd really struggle with having to rely on other people. As it turned out, that became one of my favourite aspects of the sport – it's wonderful to be part of a group working towards the same thing with different people bringing different attributes to the boat or training squad."
"I went from being one of the best runners in the country to being an absolute gumby in a rowing boat! I was thrown in the deep end – I had no idea how to row, I knew nothing about the sport. But I didn't notice that I was hopeless because every session I was getting better and that's all that really mattered to me. I was very used to setting goals and just trying to get better each session, so it was a really a fun time when I was on a steep learning curve."
"I think one of the advantages I had from not starting rowing at a younger age is that I didn't pick up bad habits. The easiest way to get injured is to have technical faults – and this applies to any sport."
"I think there are a lot of similarities across sports in terms of how you learn a new skill. If you have that ability to be coached, if you can make changes, work hard, set a goal and work towards it, then it doesn't matter what you do – it's all very transferable."
"Sprinting 400m running is quite physical – you go as hard as you can until you start wobbling a bit and you hope you time that for somewhere around the finish line. Rowing is a lot about holding form under fatigue – doing things well even though your body doesn't want to. That was a new concept for me because I was all about trying really hard – in rowing you almost don't want to be trying too hard because it's meant to be about ease of movement. As soon as you tense up, it becomes very hard to get that easy run of the boat. I relied a lot on my physicality when I started rowing because that was what I brought – competitiveness, aggression in racing and I had a bit of a sprint on me. Over the years I've had to learn more about taking pride in my form and having patience in the boat."
"You're only going to want to do a sport if you enjoy the environment that you're in – it's the community that can be so important. For me initially, it wasn't that rowing was great, it was the people that were great."
"There are plenty of rowers who have gone to cycling – they love the competitive aspect, but cycling also has a great social scene – and I can really see myself enjoying being part of a cycling group when I stop rowing."