Sister act digs deep

By Anendra Singh

T HEY are not always up before the crack of dawn but they make up for that two hours after work each night.
The weekends offer little respite, because it's back on the water twice a day.
But the chances of Melanie, 30, and Keren Ward, 27, featuring on billboards in Hawke's Bay or promoting Kiwi beef and lamb are almost zilch.
That's because the Hastings sisters acknowledge there's a "reasonable gap" between what they do and the hard yards the New Zealand elite rowers put in when they gather at Lake Karapiro, in Waikato.
Nevertheless, that is not to say the Ward siblings do not have an interesting story to share with the Bay.
Based in England these days, the former Karamu Girls' High School pair live and work in London where they are members of the City of Oxford Rowing Club.
"Rowing is big in New Zealand but it's massive in England and very competitive," Keren tells SportToday soon after rushing back from work and a rigorous two-hour training session for an interview time that suits both parties.
Training all year means Keren and Melanie brace themselves for an unforgiving English winter when even water splashes freeze as they land on the boat.
"There's ice on the water and on the boat's blades too," says Keren, laughing about how the locals complain about the current 30C "heat-wave" weather.
With age and cost as factors, Keren rules out any possibility of turning professional, but the Wards are lapping up the joys of belonging to a club steeped in history.
Last year the 250-member club celebrated its 40th anniversary. The Neptune (1863) and Hannington (1904) Rowing Clubs amalgamated in 1968 to form the Oxford club.
Today it is the largest rowing club in Oxford, boasting a modern boathouse adjacent to Donnington Bridge, downstream from the city centre on the Isis, as the locals affectionately call the River Thames.
Keren is in the club's women's elite coxless fours crew who won a silver medal at last year's National Rowing Championship of Great Britain.
In May this year they also became national champions in another country by winning gold at the 32nd International Belgian Rowing Championship in Ghent, Belgium.
In the recent Henley women's regatta, Keren's fours lost in the final to the Great Britain under-23 composite fours.
"We were leading for three-quarters of the way and they beat us to the line by a boat length.

They were much bigger [women] and semi-professionals," said Keren, who has been working there as a process engineer for McCormicks UK Ltd in the past two years. "Oxford is now the most successful club compared with other bigger ones here [such as the Thames, London and university ones]," she said after the three wins in the Henley women's regatta which was held in the biggest multilane venue where the 2006 World Championship was held and where the 2012 Olympic Games races will be staged.
Secondary school teacher Melanie, who is away with her D'Overbroeks College students in Zambia after returning from Cuba, is in the eights crew.
"Melanie has been here for four years and I just got here by chance," she says, happy to be near her sister. Keren hopes to travel to Amsterdam and Budapest.
The club crews will be racing at the Great Britain Nationals July 17-19 at the National Watersports Centre (Nottingham).
Parents Graeme and Angela Ward, of Havelock North, stay in touch with their daughters' regattas via text and emails.
Then Karamu High deputy principal Allan Vester (now a principal in an Auckland school) was instrumental in getting the girls into rowing.
Father Graeme did his bit, often transporting his daughters and their Hawke's Bay Rowing Club crews in the family's nine-seater car.
"We would start at 5.30am and they were done at Clive River by 7.30am for a trip straight to school to shower there. But I'd dash home in between and have my breakfast," he said, adding that Pete Desland also shared that duty.
Melanie was in an all-blonde Karamu High crew in the mid-1990s "but they weren't dummies or anything", Graeme said.
While the sisters were enjoying Oxford, Keren said they would come back to New Zealand because they missed the lifestyle.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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