House of Rowing

Underwood on his Water Rower.
Underwood on his WaterRower.

Louis Petrin writes from Down Under:

Australia has a new leader of Parliament House, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

HoR Pic 1
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Up until now, 25% of Australian Prime Ministers had been involved in rowing.

Nominative determinism should have helped to improve the percentages stats but didn’t when ‘Jim’ Scullin, the ninth Prime Minister of Australia, was elected without ever having rowed.

But does this new Prime Minister count as being a rower?

The circumstance of this elevation to the top job of the country has been likened to the Machiavellian fictional politician Frank Underwood.

Underwood is the name of Kevin Spacey’s character in the smash hit American TV series House of Cards, which delves into the seedy underbelly of political life in Washington, D.C., as politicians obsess over their ambitions and literally do whatever it takes – including murder – to reach ultimate power.

Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood.
Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood.

For British readers, Underwood is the equivalent of Francis Urquhart in the British House of Cards trilogy (1990). Urquhart was educated at Eton, so he may have dabbled in rowing.

Francis Urquhart was played by Ian Richardson.
Francis Urquhart was played by Ian Richardson.

In the U.S. version, Underwood eventually becomes President of the United States.

Recently on a breakfast television show, Malcolm Turnbull was discussing his frontbench reshuffle following his takeover of the Prime Minister’s office.

Channel Seven presenter David Koch said Mr Turnbull and his wife Lucy were being dubbed the new ‘power couple’ and were being compared to Frank Underwood and his powerbroker wife Claire Underwood. Koch wanted to know if the new Prime Minister saw that link as an insult or compliment.

‘I’ve got nothing in common with Frank Underwood other than that we both use a rowing machine,’ replied Mr Turnbull.

Soon afterwards, a message came through over Twitter direct to Malcolm Turnbull’s official account, from the verified official account of the Netflix series.

‘@TurnbullMalcolm feel free to stop by any time.’

That was accompanied by a video of Kevin Spacey in character as Underwood using his trademark indoor rowing machine.

In the Season 3 Finale, Frank’s wife Claire who always exercising with long runs, succumbs to having a go on the erg.

Claire Underwood (played by Robin Wright) is having a go at the erg.
Claire Underwood (played by Robin Wright) is having a go at the erg.

In series 2, Underwood says he can knock out 500m in 1:39. Very impressive indeed! But watching Underwood using the erg would confirm he has a habit of telling lies – his breaking of the knees very early would suggest that such a time is impossible and that no one has ever coached him on correct erg technique. Maybe the producers should have called in Xeno Müller?

More trivia, it seems our Prime Minister Turnbull uses a Concept 2 erg compared to Underwood’s WaterRower.

So back to the basic question, does rowing an erg constitute be called a rower?

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