Row, row, row your, er, canoe

Canoeists everywhere get frustrated when their sport’s described as ‘rowing’.

It seems only yesterday that we were busily collecting entries for ‘hapless sub-editor of the year’ and ‘clueless sports reporter of the Olympic Games’ in which our gallant entrants got to ask Britain’s top kayakers how long they’d been rowing, how much their oars cost and topped their journalistic credentials off with such classic headlines as “Oar-some duo rowing for Gold!!!!!

Oh, you think we’re joking? Well… try these for size: “Russian rowers on top“; “Kayaking festival should be oarsome“. And this picture story, my particular favourite. Check out the huge headline that’s got absolutely nowhere to hide. Of course, credit where credit’s due, we’re not forgetting one website, guilty of a particularly irritating faux pas, which  got an email from us (we really did have nothing better to do) and then – wonders will never cease – went back and courageously changed their headline.

Far be it for us to make false claims that we were the first canoeists to get hot under the spraydeck about the confusion between our sport and that other one (where they all go backwards and use oars).

Seven-time world kayaking (yes, confusing isn’t it?) champion Ivan Lawler got his, um, oar in first with this little video – a nice summing up of how our sport genuinely differs from rowing. It ought to be required reading for journalists everywhere.

Essentially, duff headlines (and duff journalists) are a bit like the first swallow of spring, once you see one then along come a whole bunch of others, all trying to out-do each other with their oarsomeness. [Ok, that really is enough rubbish puns for now. Ed.]

Which brings us to the first entry of 2013 in the spot-the-rower competition. Our thanks to Lawrence Heath, father of Olympic bronze-medal winner Liam, for this newspaper cutting from the Surrey Advertiser.

“I never thought my son was going to grow up to be a rower,” he told me between sobs. “I suspect there is a long line of aggrieved paddlers waiting for Leveson to be fully implemented.”

So here it is, in all its glory….(you may have to click on the image to read the picture caption).

Liam Heath: world class rower

In fairness to the sub-editor concerned, it probably didn’t help that he may have incorrectly recognised the boat hanging on the wall behind Liam in the Guildford branch of TGI Friday’s as the one he raced in London with Jon Schofield.

Of course, the paper would have been on safer ground had it used a musical pun or two to caption the photograph or headline the story.

Even the Daily Telegraph passed up the opportunity when they described Liam as a “former barman” in their article of last summer, recounting how he’d taken a job mixing cocktails and only got back into serious training once he became lottery funded.

It’s strange that they didn’t because vast numbers of articles suborn lyrics for picture captions and headlines, something that suggests editing desks are either stuffed full of frustrated wannabe musicians or, more likely, just it’s a quick way of conveying an entire story with someone else’s literary efforts.

Anyway, rather than focusing on the fact Liam’s Olympic gear had been cleaned….here’s our best picture caption effort that may sum up the ‘how we got together’ aspect of Liam Heath and Jon Schofield’s Olympic medal-winning partnership:

"I was working as a waiter in a cocktail bar....when I met you"

“I was working as a waiter in a cocktail bar….when I met you”

(Surrey Advertiser cutting: Lawrence Heath; picture: BBC website)

This article first appeared on  Royal Canoe Club’s website