If rivalries are what brings out the best in athletes, then in Erik Horrie’s case, it brought out the World Best Time (WBT) at the 2018 World Rowing Championships.
The Australian smashed the WBT in the PR1 men's single sculls (PR1 M1x) on his way to gold earlier in September in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
After the end of the final, Horrie took his visor off and tipped it toward Ukraine’s Roman Polianskyi as a sign of sportsmanship, and acknowledgement that the rivalry will continue all the way to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
"I knew there would be a new World Best Time in the final as Roman and I like to push each other through the whole race as we both want to win which makes it an exciting race," said Horrie.
Horrie was in second place for most of the race but came out on top in a sprint finish with the Ukrainian just under half a second behind.
"I didn’t doubt myself throughout the race,” Horrie said. “I sat down with my coach the night before and we discussed exactly what we were going to do through the race. The only thing that changed from the race plan was the conditions on the day which made the race a lot more difficult technically.
"We always knew the world record that I set on Tuesday (in the heat) wouldn’t stand as we knew Roman was capable of rowing under that time."
Horrie took nine seconds off his own time in the final finishing in 9:16.90.
More than the numbers
The record, however, is not what got Horrie emotional.
"It is nice having my name against the World Best Time but winning is more important than the times," added Horrie.
"It’s unbelievable. If you asked me five years ago I would never believe it could’ve happened. The success of the five World Championships, it isn’t just my success it also belongs to my coach Jason Baker from Sydney Rowing Club. Without all the hard work he put in with me over the last six years this wouldn’t have been possible."
Path to Paralympics
Despite all his success at Worlds, Horrie is still chasing the Paralympic title that has so far eluded him. He collected silver in both London 2012 and Rio 2016.
"My plans are to be selected and compete at the World Championships in 2019 and qualify the boat for the Paralympics in Tokyo 2020,” he said. “Then hopefully I’m successful enough to represent Australia in the PR1 single scull event and win the gold medal."
"One thing with rowing is there is always things to improve, every competitor wants to go faster in every race. In the [PR1 Mx1] event, it’s only the second year of the 2km distance, so the times are going to get quicker as we continue racing."