BBC BLOGS - Annabel Vernon
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Balls and bumps, plus World Cup success

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Annabel Vernon | 10:45 UK time, Wednesday, 23 June 2010

As an international competitor in a sport with very low media profile, it's interesting to watch the progress of the English football team in their World Cup campaign.

I appreciate how difficult it could be, being pursued by the media 24 hours a day, with your every comment, performance or move on the training pitch being picked over; but the actions of some of the footballers just seem unbelievable to me.

Some England players (as well as players from lots of different countries) have expressed heavy criticism of the match ball. Now, I'm no expert, but I'm guessing that the ball is a fairly important component of the game.

So why come out on the eve of the tournament and tell all your opponents that you can't kick the ball properly? This would be akin to us turning up to the Olympic regatta and telling all the opposition that the oars we had to use weren't any good and that we were going to row really badly with them.

At such a late stage there was no chance of the ball being changed; so surely in this situation the thing to do would be to make your objections in private to Fifa, then to get on with it and find a way to use it to your advantage.

If there was such a thing as a regulation set of oars that we all had to use (which there isn't), I'm sure that the British team would have thoroughly researched them beforehand, and done whatever it takes to get hold of the right equipment prior to the regatta to ensure that we were better prepared than any other team.

In elite sport you have to be uncompromising in your pursuit of success: nothing can get in the way. If there are obstacles that cannot be surmounted, then you find a way to turn them into an advantage.

Why not go on TV and let the world know how confident you feel with it; how it suits your style of play; how it gives you a definite advantage?

So back to rowing, where we're in the middle of the World Cup series. In between the opening regatta in Bled, Slovenia and the one in Munich three weeks later, I went up to Cambridge to cheer on my college, Downing, in the final day of the college 'bumps' races.

I raced bumps for my college back in 2002 and it took me back to why I first found rowing so exciting. The boats are set off a set distance away from each other and all start at the same time.

Downing College in action in bumps in 2002
Annabel's crew in action in the Cambridge May bumps of 2002

The countdown to the start is signalled by a series of cannons and, once the starting cannon goes, the River Cam explodes with shouting, swearing, splashing, hooters, whistles and cheers as the boats try to hit the one in front before getting rear-ended themselves.

On the international scene, Bled was a great regatta for the whole team; the women won three out of their five events - a real boost for the squad.

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Annabel was part of the GB women's quad that won the opening World Cup regatta in Slovenia (UK users only)

Munich was more of a mixed bag; Anna Watkins and Katherine Grainger walked the doubles again but when Beth Rodford and I joined them in the quad, we couldn't quite catch the Germans, despite putting in a blistering last 500m.

The World Championships this year are such a long way off - being two months later than normal because they take place in New Zealand - that the World Cups are more a snapshot of a day than a reliable guide to form. So much can change in the next three-and-a-half months.

Before the final World Cup event in Lucerne, we have Henley Royal Regatta which should be very well-attended this year by the international contingent; and this will actually be my first time competing at Henley.

Overall, this looks like an interesting year for the women's sculling team. With Debbie Flood, Katie Solesbury and Frances Houghton still to come back into the boats, crews will be reshuffled but the standard of both double and quad will be extremely high.

Great Britain's two top women's sculling boats won a gold and bronze at the 2007 Worlds, then silver and bronze at the 2008 Olympics, and two world silvers in 2009, so we're still fighting for that double gold, which would be an incredibly special achievement.

Watch highlights of Annabel and the rest of the team in action at the Munich World Cup regatta - on iPlayer until 27 June.


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