Rowing for Team GB

 
Leander Club members

As Team GBs medal count continues to mount at the London 2012 Olympics there is one club whose members are regulars on the podium.

The Leander Club is arguably the country's premier rowing club whose oarsmen, and in recent times oarswomen, have been winning medals for more than a century and went in to the London Olympics with 99 medals to its name.

Photographer Caroline Goetze, who used to row competitively in Germany, focused on the club for her final degree project in commercial photography at the Arts University College at Bournemouth.

"For a number of years I took part in numerous regattas as well as the state and national championships so I know how much serious work and dedication it takes to be successful at rowing. I always admired this dedication and the commitment it takes to be a professional athlete, devoting your life to a sport you are so passionate about when it affects every aspect of your life."

Olympics coverage online

Olympics images

Goetze's initial aim was to look at rowing as a whole, but her research led her to the Leander Club and its place in the history of British rowing. "It is a breeding ground for future Olympic talent as well as home to the very greats of the sport and also the most decorated Olympic club ever. Everyone had been waiting to see who would win that 100th medal and it has finally happened at home."

The winner of that 100th, and indeed four more medals, was claimed by one of the five club members who made up the men's eight who took bronze in a thrilling final.

As with most projects of this sort the organisation takes longer than the shoot itself and once permission was granted there was the busy training schedule to work around. Eventually Goetze set up her lights in the library and with the support of the club's Dr Robert Treharne Jones the rowers made themselves available.

Alongside the portraits there are shots of the club and the athletes in training, scenes which offer a glimpse of the work and dedication required to compete in such a gruelling sport.

"As a whole, the project portrays the athletes' personalities, their determination, commitment and shows the sacrifices they make in order to compete at a professional level and to inhabit and enforce the club's core values of teamwork, discipline, excellence and winning," says Goetze. "Taking into account the historical and social connotations of rowing, the edit, with few female athletes and ethnic diversity, might suggest to viewers that rowing is a male dominated and very elitist sport.

Leander Club training room

"The 'Leander Club' remains elitist but only on athletic achievement, rather than on class or education. The general idea still relies on the fact that the understanding of the sport is rooted deep within society's view of the activity and elitism itself. The project is a celebration of achievement but still reveals the popularity and the appeal of the sport to a certain and very specific part of society."

It should be noted that rowing is one sport to address some of the inequalities which saw 50% of Great Britain's medallists at the Beijing Olympics coming from just 7% of the population who are privately educated. Rowing launched a programme more than a decade ago to pick teenagers with the necessary physique from comprehensive schools to become elite rowers and at this Games, 50% of the rowing team are from state schools.

Goetze's time at university has allowed her to experiment with different genres, but she says it "was always portraiture, documentary and photojournalism I was most interested in."

Now, she plans to work on a number of personal projects including a story about the Oktoberfest in Munich, the world's biggest fair with nearly seven million visitors, before moving to London to take on commissions.

Ross Hunter Rower Ross Hunter was Bert Bushnell's rowing double in BBC's Bert and Dickie which told the story of how Bert Bushnell and Dickie Burnell defied all the odds and achieved gold in the double sculls at the London Olympics of 1948.
Alex Robertson Alex Robertson
Debbie Flood Debbie Flood is three times world champion and won silver at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics but sadly missed out this year, finishing sixth in the women's quadruple scull.
Chris Boddy Chris Boddy

You can see more of Caroline Goetze's work on her website.

 
Phil Coomes, Picture editor Article written by Phil Coomes Phil Coomes Picture editor

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