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Hayley’s long haul

Hayley Arthur is fighting tooth and nail for a spot in the women’s pairs rowing boat that South Africa have qualified for the Olympic Games in London later this year. Lee-Ann Persse has already booked her seat in the boat and now Arthur and Naydene Smith are contesting the remaining berth.

Arthur took time out from her hectic schedule to share some background with Road to London 2012’s Mark Etheridge on the ups and downs of training, the confusion that sometimes surrounds her name and how she came to be chasing her rowing dream.

You’ve recently come back from yet another training camp. What are you up to now?

We’re training at home now ÔÇô Roodeplaat Dam and Pretoria HPC which is basically headquarters for us. It’s always good to train here at home because we get to be in our own space and comfort a bit. On the other hand the benefit of a camp away means three meals a day cooked for us and lots of down-time as opposed to traveling back and forth to sessions so it’s sometimes easier to just ‘train, eat, sleep’ when they take us away on camps.

Your previous camps were in Bethlehem and Tzaneen.. what training phase are you in right now?

At this stage I guess we are in early-racing phase. We are still doing high volume but also a lot of high intensity work and from end of January through to early May is the domestic racing season so we are racing almost every second weekend so it’s a busy time of year. Obviously our long term goal and training for that is the main focus so we don’t exactly peak for these regattas we just fit them into our current schedule. Always exciting to be racing though. We don’t get huge competition from other crews across the country but it’s always a fight to the bitter end amongst our squad athletes when we line up against each other so there’s always a race on!

Describe a typical day’s training for you guysÔǪ is it something like 70% rowing and then gym and running etc .. and how many hours?

A typical day is three sessions per day: that’s generally a row every morning ÔÇô 18-20km which can mean we are on the water for up to two hours every morning. The sessions may be long/low intensity, high intensity sprint work or a combination of the two. Midday will find us in the gym where we either do an ergo session (the indoor rowing machine or Concept 2) which will be about 90 minutes; or a gym session (weight lifting) for 80 minutes; or a stretching session 45 minutes. The third session of the day is a row or ergo or a 10km run, depending on the day of the week. We generally have 17 sessions per week with training seven days per week. The number of sessions and intensity etc will change according to the programme.

How does the team set-up work. Is Lee a certain and who else is involved in the race for the other spot?

Yes, Lee’s place is a given. And Kate Christowitz is part of last year’s Under-23 SA team [she finished fifth at the last two world Under-23 championships] and has stepped up to train with us so that we can have two pairs training against each other every day and then Naydene and I swap between the two boats so that we have equal chance to row with Lee-Ann. It gives both of us a chance to be in a pair all the time and it’s far more exciting having two boats going at it than one pair and someone else sitting in the single. As for Kate, in her support for the Olympic boat she’s fighting for a medal at the Under-23 World Championships this year.

When it comes to the Olympics, explain the basic format ÔÇô do the men and women all race over the standard distance or does it differ from combo to combo and how many times will you be expected to race in London .. will it be heats, semis and final?

Yes, what you said above is correct. We all race a standard distance of two kilometers. Heats, semi, finals. If you are not fast enough in the heat to progress straight through to a semi then you will race the repechage for the last two spots in the semi final. That’s usually the format. And yes, it is a six-lane final.

And do you have any idea when and where the final decision will be made as to what our combo for Olympics will be!

The final date is not exactly clear. There is a regatta in April initially which all four of us will be sent to race at, so we will race two women’s pairs. I do not know in which combinations we will race as yet but that is the proposed idea.

How is the mood in the camps… you all working well together?

The mood is intense. And tense :) We are all working very hard physically and our heart and soul is on the line everyday for the end-goal so it’s as much a mental challenge as anything physical. I’m loving it! Everyday I learn something new and I’m challenged to meet another level physically and emotionally. You learn a lot about yourself and each other in these high pressure situations!

There’s been some confusion at your name being the same as national canoeist Mike Arthur’s wife!

Haha, yes, a lot of people have been confused about that! I know Mike through the canoeing world as I am very close to a lot of his canoeing buddies.

What about your sporting background and how did you first get into rowing?

About me, I’m 28. I grew-up and went to school in Durban (St Mary’s DSG) and was always a competitive swimmer. I started rowing at Rhodes University when I went there in first year in 2002. Apparently I didn’t do my research and there was no swimming team at Rhodes but a damn good rowing team… so I switched sports and the rest is history. I rowed at varsity level for four years just enjoying it and doing what I could at that level. Then in 2006 I moved to Joburg to try make the national team. I have raced at World Student Games (HW Double), All Africa Games (HW Double), The Royal Henley Regatta (HW Single), two World Cups in the HW Pair, two World Cups in the HW Single and one World Championships (HW Single). I live in Pretoria full-time but if I could, I would be at the coast ÔÇô I moved here for rowing and for the most part Pretoria and Joburg are pretty great!I completed two honours degrees at the University of Pretoria ÔÇô firstly in Sports Science and then in Biokinetics. I worked as a biokineticist for two years until the end of 2010 when I decided to commit full-time to rowing and the 2012 goal!

Thank you for the chat, Hayley. Stay strong and sane!

I’m definitely staying strong…but sane is questionable!!


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