Jeezo, it’s cheaper in Waitrose!!

So far the strangest thing about being here in the Maldives is the fact that, well, that it often doesn’t seem that strange at all. I worried I might feel a bit out of place, a bit lonely, and perhaps wish I was back training full time…. Of course I do miss people back home, and I’d be lying if there wasn’t a pang of envy when I spoke to those going back to training at Caversham the other week. But in the 3weeks I’ve been here, I feel surprisingly at home.

The job I am here to do, is that of developing the Rowing Association of the Maldives (RAM). The project is run through FISA and the Olympic Solidarity Committee (plus with the support of British Rowing), and is part of the objective of increasing rowing participation worldwide, especially in those countries for whom lightweight rowing is really the only competitive category – yes, in the Maldives, it’s the first time I don’t go directly to the front of a group photo, in the Maldives, I am TALL! “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”, as the saying goes.… Anyways, back to the project I’m working on. It was started by Guin Batten a number of years ago, with the initial focus of increasing female participation in sport. While this is still a major goal, it is now accompanied by the objective of creating a high performance stream aswell. While RAM has been operating for some years now, the activity has been sporadic, and so the majority of current rowers only started either a number of weeks or months ago.


One of my main aims, is simply to get more people rowing. The broader the base, the higher the peak of the pyramid. But there are some cultural obstacles to this….

Firstly, rowing doesn’t seem to be a highly regarded past-time. Perhaps in the reverse of what you’d see in the UK, rowing is not seen as for the elite or the wealthy (not that it should be seen as such in the UK of course!) so offering rowing to schools is, I feel, a little like it might be taking boxing to Eton… (now of course I’ll find out that Eton does have it’s own boxing club, but you get where I’m coming from I hope). Speaking to teachers and parents, the response is often, with a shrug of the shoulders, “it’s only the low academic pupils who would take part, and they cannot afford the bus ticket to get there”. It is difficult to get them into the mindset that pupils of all academic ability would take part, and in fact, that rowing might help their education in some ways. Just like the UK perhaps, preconceptions abound.

While I personally would favour co-ed learning, that is not popular with some parents here; nor is the intermingling of children who have been the subject of abuse, for fear somehow that their stories will be shared and encourage “experimentation”. This is so far from my instinct of seeing that person as the most in need of social interaction, but I have to try to understand their viewpoint if I am to work out a solution.

Other problems are easier to fix – apparently the reason some girls didn’t attend the 2pm session, is because it’s too sunny and they don’t want a tan! Not a problem I’ve had coaching in the UK…. I’d imagine most junior coaches have their work cut out keeping their athletes covered up, not trying to get them out of the shade… Simple answer? Move their session to another time of the day.

Coaching from a SUP (stand-up paddle board) watching a scene from Finding Nemo play out beneath me certainly makes a change to freezing my *ss off in a tin finish on the tideway, although that, of course has it’s charms too.

Other quirks I’m getting used to, are things not happening when it was planned (this is good for me, to break from my uber-planning nature!), things changing last minute, and the price of vegetables – £2 for a small lettuce?!! I miss vegetables. A carrot is now a luxury item. But tuna? Tuna is the staple. Twice a day I eat tuna. Tuna tuna tuna. Just as well I like tuna.

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