Rio Olympics: Rower pushes conservative approach

By Peter White

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WORLD CLASS: Tauranga rower Zoe Stevenson training at Lake Karapiro earlier this year. PHOTO/FILE
WORLD CLASS: Tauranga rower Zoe Stevenson training at Lake Karapiro earlier this year. PHOTO/FILE

Zoe Stevenson has every reason to feel confident heading to the Rio Olympics.

The Tauranga rower and her partner in the women's double sculls, Eve Macfarlane, are the reigning world champions and have been steadily peaking for Rio at key European regattas.

Last weekend the duo claimed the silver medal at the World Rowing Cup III in Poznan, Poland, despite taking a conservative approach and not giving too much away to their rivals for the gold medal in Rio.

Stevenson, 25, says their status as reigning world champs will mean little.

"It doesn't count for anything once you get there. Everything is on the line," she said.

"It is just one of those things I guess that you try to take confidence from and then leave it at the door and put everything you have into it on the day.

"You will be mostly racing against people who you have managed to get ahead of before."

The working relationship and synergy on the water between Stevenson and Macfarlane is fundamental to their success.

Stevenson likes how the combination between them has evolved.

"We have something really good going on. I think we get on well on and off the water, have an open, honest relationship and really push each other.

"We have a deep level of trust in our boat which means we can do and say a lot of things to try and go faster without offending each other.

"It is really important we both know we want to make the boat go faster so we both trust that is what we are both doing."

This will be the first competitive Olympics for Stevenson although she was at the London Olympics in 2012 as a reserve.

Despite not getting to row she believes the experience gleaned is invaluable to her chances in Rio.

"I learnt heaps. Although I didn't get to race I got to experience it and breathe the atmosphere which is really valuable.

"Looking back I was really lucky to be able to do that because the Olympics is just a whole different ball game and I think you don't really know that until you go there.

"People tell you about it and you think you are prepared but it is just a huge big circus.

"Going from the world champs which is small and just rowing, to stepping up to the Olympics where there is every sport and the whole world kind of tuning in, that really is different."

Stevenson has not been to Rio before but does not regard that as a disadvantage.

"We are going early two weeks before the Olympics so we will have enough chances to get up and down the course and get used to it before the competition starts."

Stevenson is a member of the Tauranga Rowing Club and first came to prominence rowing for Tauranga Girls' College.

Support from her family, school, club and Rowing NZ have played significant roles in Stevenson's rapid progress to be a world champion.

But as important as that support is, she says every athlete has to work out what works best for them.

"You really do have to find your own way I think.

"People can give you all the advice in the world but at the end of the day you have to figure it out for yourself, especially at the top end because everyone does it differently.

"I get a lot of support from the Tauranga Rowing Club and from Tauranga in general which is really valuable to me."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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