Rowing: Aussie now a no row

By Andrew Alderson

The New Zealand rowing squad will bypass training in Sydney, opting to stay at home in the lead-up to the world championships on Lake Karapiro. Photo / Herald on Sunday
The New Zealand rowing squad will bypass training in Sydney, opting to stay at home in the lead-up to the world championships on Lake Karapiro. Photo / Herald on Sunday

The New Zealand rowing squad have opted against going to Australia to complete their final preparations for the world championships on Lake Karapiro starting on October 31.

The athletes and coaches will instead stay at home. The decision was made once a record team of 55 athletes and 18 boats were selected for what will be the second world championships on New Zealand waters - the first was in 1978.

Budgets were set to spiral out of control with extra accommodation and flights to keep the team together on Penrith Lakes, west of Sydney, for the September 29-October 17 expedition. That was the venue where Rob Waddell won gold at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

Initially Rowing New Zealand believed Australia was a prudent option. It was designed to counter Lake Karapiro being closed for on-water preparations as well as the disruption caused by grandstand construction and overseas boats being transported in.

The decision was also designed to take the focus off athletes in the build-up. High performance manager Alan Cotter says that approach no longer stacks up.

"With the number of athletes and the cost of sending boats, it meant we weren't going to get enough value out of it," he said. "As a coaching group, we felt we'd get just as much by staying.

"While we were going to use it to get away from some of the spotlight, I think we can now use it to help us.

"We'll get around the logistical problems. The grandstand is almost up and our high performance centre is out of the way as it is."

Fortunately, the hotels booked by Rowing New Zealand refunded all the deposits. That was the major cost of going. Some of the flight bookings were lost but not many of the crews had been booked by the time the decision was made to pull out.

Single sculler and four-time world champion Mahe Drysdale said he was happy soaking up the atmosphere at home.

"Some of the younger guys were keen to get away but it makes no real difference for training, plus we're going to be able to stay in our own houses and beds," he said.

"It's a big lake and our trainings have been staggered so we're not all on the water at once. Two lane wires have been set up, to let us test the course. On October 4 the full course will be ready, and we can train on it, which will be quite an advantage.

"Not too many international teams will be arriving until later next month. The lake will still be ours until then. I just hope the current and wind goes away."

On a weekend of more wild springtime weather, organisers will also be relieved. Today was originally the last day of finals on the initial world championship plan proposed to governing body FISA. It was later pushed back seven weeks.

- Herald on Sunday

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