Battling pair in position for a podium finish

By David Leggat


If you're looking for a medal winner you hadn't seen coming at the London Olympics, try Fiona Paterson and Anna Reymer.

The women, who set off for Europe yesterday with the bulk of the powerful New Zealand rowing squad, have both overcome obstacles to get a crack at the Games, and what's more they are in a crew which has a large cachet attached.

New Zealand won gold medals in the double scull at both the Athens and Beijing Olympics, courtesy of twins Caroline Meyer and Georgina Earl.

They left large shoes to fill, but for Paterson and Reymer, that element of what lies in front doesn't figure in their thinking.

Paterson is good friends with the twins but as for any notion that they have a legacy to uphold, or some sort of onus lying upon them to perform with that in mind, forget it.

"They set an amazing example for everyone, and showed it could be done," Paterson said. "It's all sort of followed on from there. But it being the same boat doesn't really affect us much."

She talks to the twins occasionally, "a little bit about rowing but not that much,"Paterson said.

Reymer puts it simply: "We don't go in with any goals other than to win, and that's for ourselves, not because of what's been done in the past."

A bronze in the world championship final in Bled, Slovenia, last year opened their eyes to the possibilities.

They've had some bumps on the training path this season but are confidently back on track. However, it wasn't long ago that even getting to the Olympics this year would have seemed far away.

In January 2006, Paterson was diagnosed with clear cell cervical cancer. Months of chemotherapy and radiation therapy followed.

Paterson, originally from the Ida Valley in central Otago, never gave up on her ambitions. A year later she made it into the women's eight, which tried unsuccessfully to qualify for the Beijing Olympics.

In 2010, Paterson and Emma-Jane Feathery won the B final - effectively world No 7 - at the Lake Karapiro world champs.

Reymer had to sit the year out with a back injury. That's probably an understatement. A disc bulge threatened to curtail her rowing career before it had really got under way.

"It was basically get the surgery or never row again," Reymer said. "I was having trouble walking, let alone rowing. I was ready to retire and realised I hadn't tried everything."

Reymer, Cambridge born and bred, had heard of an English rower who had had specific surgery and made it back to the Olympics. So she followed suit in Auckland.

It took three months after that before she got back in a boat, and then with a degree of trepidation. But as it transpired ...

"It was the best decision I've ever made. It went well and ever since then I haven't had a problem."

So they set off to Europe last year, and after a dud race in the A final of the Lucerne regatta - finishing last, 15 seconds behind the British winners - put together a strong body of training work before heading to the world champs in Bled.

"When we got there we knew we could do something special," Reymer recalled.

And they did, winning bronze. The British champion pair, Anna Watkins and Katherine Grainger, won again, but this time the margin back to the New Zealanders was just 2s.

Australia took second, and those are two nations Paterson and Reymer will be looking out for in Lucerne at next week's World Cup, and in Munich starting on June 15, the final lead-in to London.

"We're trying to focus on the process rather than the outcome," Paterson said. "If we do everything right then the results will take care of themselves."

This is an old line athletes are fond of putting out. It's fair enough too, but these are the Olympics.

"It's a massive carrot and pretty exciting for both of us who haven't been to the Olympics before," Paterson said.

They have positioned themselves to be at least good contenders for a podium finish - something they wouldn't have cared to dream of a couple of years ago.

- Hamilton News

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