Interview with Dr. Valery Kleshnev of the Biomechanics Newsletter

Today we also are fortunate to present an interview with Dr. Valery Kleshnev.

A few days ago, I introduced blog readers to the Rowing Biomechanics Newsletter published by Dr. Valery Kleshnev, and highlighted the current issue. I have been in touch with Dr. Kleshnev this week and he was kind enough to give an interview to give some context and background for his Newsletters.

[Rowing Science]: Can you tell us a bit about your background? I believe I first discovered your work through the AIS and I see that you are now in Great Britain. How did you get started with Rowing Biomechanics?

[V. Kleshnev]: I was international level rower between 1975 and 1986. My main achievements are: Gold on FISA junior champ in 1975, silver on 1980 Olympics and bronze on 1982 Worlds (all in 4x). I was graduated from St.Petersburg sport uni in 1984 and defended my Ph.D thesis in 1991. From 1986 I worked in St.Petersburg sport research institute and provided support for National and city teams in rowing. Biomechanics was my main area of interest. In 1998 I got a job of rowing biomechanist and moved to AIS. I really enjoyed work with Australian coaches and rowers, which are ones of the best in the world. Since 2005 I work in EIS as a National Biomechanics lead. Rowing is still in main focus of my interests.

[Rowing Science]: Do you have a main area of research today, within rowing biomechanics?

[V. Kleshnev]: The spectrum of my interests is quite broad: from blade hydrodynamics till muscle efficiency. In near future I'm going to look closer on rigging issues and boat setup.

[Rowing Science]: What was your motivation in starting the Newsletter? Am I correct that you are trying to focus on key topics that are accessible to all readers, not just scientists?

[V. Kleshnev]: Scientific papers in special journals are good for scientists, but very often they are difficult to understand for coaches. Papers have to have a standard format and it is time consuming to write them and correspond with reviewers. As a practical scientist I didn't have time to do it. Therefore, in 2001 I've decided to create my own publication, which has higher efficiency of transfer of information and knowledge to coaches.

Another important purpose was necessity of receiving feedback from coaches. Some scientists work in this way: they research something, which is interesting for them or currently "fashionable" and then look for practical application. Quite often this sort of research has no practical meaning or even negative impact. Feedbacks from coaches allow me to do research, which is "coach driven" and can be directly applied into practice.

[Rowing Science]: Why did you make it freely available to all nations, when presumably you are employed by one country to make their athletes faster?

[V. Kleshnev]: Firstly, science has international nature. It is not possible to make significant progress if you work in isolation. Therefore, scientists have to exchange information, which they usually do in journals, conferences and on Internet. All these sources are internationally available.

Secondly, the wider feedback from coaches -- the more research ideas I can pick up and use them for my practical work. It is naive to think that I publish all my findings.

[Rowing Science]: Do you have any particular articles that you are most proud of - that you would like to draw special attention to?

[V. Kleshnev]: I'm really proud of my theory of rowing temporal structure-- micro-phases of the drive (RBN 2004/1-2). I was able to explain things, which nobody explains before: character of the boat acceleration curve and why some athletes faster in the boat than on ergo.

(RS - for this publication see: RBN 2004/1 and RBN 2004/2

[Rowing Science]: There are many styles of rowing around the world and many say that "as long as we all do the same thing, we can go fast" I was particularly impressed by the openness of Kip McDaniel who has moved from Harvard, to Cambridge and now the Canadian National Team in this regard (posted on his weblog at the Rowing News site). Yet, does your research not in some ways aim to find the "optimal" style - something your latest newsletter on front loading the drive might suggest?

[V. Kleshnev]: Obviously, any research should aim making things better. However, for a number of reasons (subjectivity, statistical misinterpretation, inadequate modeling, etc.) there are researches, which play negative role for practice. I always try to be objective and use co-called "common sense" in my research. I'm not a blind fanatic of one of the styles, but I try to find and show some evidence, which explain why one style is better than another. However, every rower is made of different bones, tissues and brain. So, something could be good for one rower, but another style is better for another rower.

[Rowing Science]: Is there one thing that stands out in your research that you wish more coaches and athletes would implement?

[V. Kleshnev]: In my publications I try to encourage coaches to think more and use more intelligent methods of training. So, the things I wish more coaches and athletes would implement are knowledge and "common sense".

[Rowing Science]: Is there anything else you would like to comment on?

[V. Kleshnev]: I'd like to remind to coaches and scientists about their responsibility for athletes' carrier. If coach has no time or wish to develop his knowledge, then he should realize that his mistakes would cost years of athlete's hard work wasted for nothing. The same can be applied to scientists, whose misleading conclusions could be very expensive for athletes and coaches.

I would like to thank Dr. Kleshnev for his generous contribution to the Rowing Science Weblog. I will continue to include postings that highlight his work in the future. As a reminder, those who sign up for the Rowing Science Newsletter will get e-mail links to all future issues of the biomechanics newsletter delivered right to their inbox.

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