What it takes to be a Junior Champion: An interview with Victoria Binns, 2022 U17W1x Australian Champion

Foreword by Ian Randall

Teenage years are brutal. 

I would never want to relive those years again. 

The ever-changing expectations from your family and friends coupled with a hyped-up popular culture, advertising and techno/media, all telling you who should be. No one seems to ask who you actually are or the type of person you want to become. Teenagers will never face a more hostile setting than now. 

Then, to reach the top step of the podium, especially in COVID years, especially in the sport of Rowing, especially when you are not the tallest nor the strongest you have proven that you have the inner strength to take on the world. Victoria Binns, you have all of my respect! 

Why did you start rowing?          

I started rowing in 2016 through the schools learn to row program. At that point I was in year 5 and just 10 years old. I tried out for rowing because my friend’s older sister enjoyed it, so I thought I would give it a go and my friend and I joined the learn to row program together. 

What do you like most about being on the water? 

It’s more fun than sitting on the erg! I like rowing crew boats because I get the share rowing with my friends in our school crews and I get to row with different people and make new friends in other programs like the South Australian State Team. I like rowing my single because it gives me time to myself and the level of accountability and not depending on others. It really pushes me and shows what I need to do better. I like racing interstate compared to South Australia where the level of competition pushes me to be better. 

Have there been any challenges or setbacks? 

In 2021 at the National Championships I wanted to make top 3 in the U17W1x.  After I won my heat in good conditions I did not handle the head wind in the semis well and missed out on a spot in the A final. This was disappointing but the experience has made me stronger and taught me a lot. 

After I won NSW State Championships in the U17W1x I tested positive to covid a week later. This meant I had to isolate for 10 days and therefore missed out on competing in the SA State Championships. As a result, I had to train at home whilst recovering from Covid. This was only 4 weeks before the National Championships. 

Mentally I still struggle with erg test. It’s getting better but it remains something that I need to and want to work on. 

Any training tips?

  • Trust in and commit to training sessions 
  • Know why you are training and what you are doing it for 
  • Invest in your warmup 
  • Have fun 
  • Encourage others and yourself

What did it take to be the top sculler in Australia? 

I won the Under17 Women’s Single Scull and I still have a long way to go to be the top sculler in Australia 😉 

Two years ago we made a 4 year plan. This included to win the Under17 single this year. Next year I want to win the Under19 single and the year after, in my last year as a junior I want to win at the Junior World Championships, in the single. Part of this plan are short term goals and target times as well as strength and technical development. 

Staying determined and chasing the goals is really important. It is ok to fail sometimes as long as you learn from it, this will only make you better. That’s why this year we invested a lot becoming faster in bad/slow conditions. 

I am not the strongest (7:39) or tallest (5’4) rower, which means that I have to be technically very efficient and be very determined. 

People who support and believe in me makes a huge difference this includes my parents, the girls I row with, my coach, the school and other people. 

What now? How will rowing fit into your other life ambitions? 

Well, after this year I still have two more years to make the Junior team. So this is my first priority, along with winning Head Of the River next season in the Eight. After that I probably want to have a job around sport but I’m not sure what I want to study yet. When I finish high school I still have one year as a junior in which I’ll probably work part time and train. After that we will see. But I’ll row regardless of whether I study in Australia or abroad. 

Why do you use foils? What do they bring to your rowing performance? 

I started using them because my coach put them on my oars and said it would be good for me. #trust

I feel when I use blades with foils the oar is not buried as far because the foils help set the correct depth of the blade. This makes my handle height during the stroke more horizontal.

I have now been using these now for a little over two years. And I am confident using them in rough conditions, which is challenging but the foils help me set the blade better in the catch as a result it makes my power application more direct and efficient.

When I now row in other boat types (no foils) I feel my handle height is better because the foils teach me to only lift my hands up as far as needed.

Victoria Binns, 16, Adelaide – Australia 

A note from her coach Tom Doornbos: Victoria recently raced a 2000m at West Lakes Regatta Centre with a rating of 27.5 in a time of 8:20.5. She recently finished a training block with a 1000m in 3:54.97, so we would like to think she is looking good to getting close to the 8:00 mark, at still only age 16. 

Thanks to Ian Randall for permission to publish this interview