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Two oars instead of one

Beth Rodford | 09:22 UK time, Friday, 29 May 2009

Hello and welcome to my first blog. For those of you who don't know anything about me, I'm part of the British rowing team and have been selected to compete in this year's World Cup series.

I went to the Beijing Olympics in the women's eight, where we finished fifth. I'm 26 and currently living in Reading although I'm originally from Gloucester, which is where I learnt to row.

After Beijing there were a lot of decisions to be made. I already knew that I wanted to continue on to London 2012 but how?

Rodford (right) after a race

For the past six years I'd been part of the sweep squad. This meant that I rowed with just one oar; in a pair, four or eight. For the last few years sculling has been ranked above sweep in the women's squad.

The main question for me, was did I want to stay in the sweep group or try to step up to the sculling group? I decided to embark on a new challenge for this Olympiad and try to make that change and adapt to sculling.

Our winter of hard training started at the beginning of November, with most of the time being spent at our squad training base in Caversham, Berkshire or on the river at Marlow, Buckinghamshire.

As always the start of the new training year was tough, this year especially so as we all took longer than normal off training after the Olympics.

We suffered a bit with the cold weather and managed to collect a few snow-related injuries earlier this year.

We did manage to get a bit of sun, though, when the women and lightweight teams went on training camp in Australia.

We managed to time our arrival with the start of a heat wave, and with temperatures hitting 40C, spent three weeks dragging ourselves up the black mountains on our bikes and suffering with the heat of the gym for our long sessions on the rowing machines.

Team morale was kept high with the occasional game of beach volleyball, a bit of surfing and a few kangaroo sightings, alongside the banter, which is always present.

The trials process for the GB squad for 2009 started back in December where I surprised myself with a win in the single scull, a result that I repeated in February at the second long distance trials in Boston, Lincolnshire.

Our last set of trials took place in April in Hazewinkel, Belgium, where we raced 2km (our summer racing distance). The racing is done in singles and pairs and this keeps the standard of competition very high and it's a strange combination of supporting our training partners but also wanting to win.

Katherine Grainger, who will race in the single scull this season, won the women's title. I finished fifth in a bit of a scrap for the line with Sarah Winckless, which put me in a good position to be selected for the sculling group.

Each year the international racing season starts with a World Cup series of three weekends spread over a seven week period.

The first regatta will take place this weekend in Banyoles, Spain. I'm racing in both a double scull, with Katie Greves, and a quad where we're joined by GB's other double of Annabel Vernon, who won silver in the quad in Beijing, and Anna Bebington, who was in the bronze medal-winning double.

Katie and I have been racing together in the women's eight for the past four years. Before that, we were in the GB junior women's four in 1999.

Racing in two events at the same regatta - or "doubling up" - is always a tricky decision. If all goes to plan then our finals will be only two hours apart, a quick turn-around.

That's not the only challenge, though. Training in two boat types requires lots of organisation and patience. We need to make sure that we give enough attention to each boat and that we do the right preparation for each one.

Sometimes that involves starting a training session in the doubles and then all coming together to finish the session in the quad. We'll be racing against each other and then two hours later we'll be racing with each other.

Banyoles will be my first international sculling race and I'm really looking forward to it. The entries this year are quite small with 10 boats in the doubles event and only three in the quad event.

In the doubles we'll be racing two crews from Denmark who recently competed at Essen International Regatta where they finished second and fifth.

In quad, which will be our last race, we'll be racing crews from Italy and the Netherlands. At this time in the season it is difficult to say what results we will be happy with because we don't know how fast the other crews are going.

After Banyoles it'll be back to hard training for a couple of weeks before the next World Cup regatta in Munich, June 19-21, and then the last regatta in Lucerne in July.

Our main event this year will be the World Championships in Poland which take place over the last week of August.

The World Cup regattas are a good way to see how everyone else is performing and which boat types they are focusing on. They are also a good way for us to get some competitive race practice.

Ultimately we are all looking forward to 2012 and every race brings us closer to racing on home water, although it's still a long way off!

Watch Beth in action at the Banyoles World Cup event on Sunday on iPlayer (available until 8 June).

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