Rowing: British team confident for world champs

By Dana Johannsen

New Zealand's biggest rivals for next month's world rowing championships have arrived in the country with firm intentions of upstaging their hosts.

The powerful Great Britain team touched down in Auckland yesterday, bringing with them the tag of the world's leading rowing nation after winning 11 medals over the 14 Olympic disciplines at the last World Cup regatta in Lucerne in July.

Among them was Alan Campbell, a silver medallist in the men's single sculls at last year's world championships in Poland, who was looking forward to shaking off the jet-lag and getting a feel for the water at Karapiro.

"I'm going to enjoy the first couple of days here and try and get rid of the jet-lag - as you Kiwis would say 'I'm feeling a bit rough'. I think it'll just take a couple of days to settle in and then we'll start thinking about the competition."

Campbell is a long-time rival of Kiwi champion Mahe Drysdale, their match-up in the single sculls is one of many eagerly awaited New Zealand v Great Britain clashes at the regatta.

Fierce rivals on the water, the pair are great friends off it, with Drysdale having spent a couple of summers in Britain training and competing.

"Off the water we're great friends, we're in contact a lot and he's talking about smuggling me away for a barbecue before the championships - I'm not sure if he's going to poison me or not.

"We get on really well, but for those seven minutes that we race I want nothing more than to hurt him as badly as possible and I'm sure he's thinking the same as well."

But Drysdale isn't the only competitor Campbell will need to put to the sword to claim the crown.

The men's single scull field is one of the blue riband events at the world championships.

Reigning Olympic champion Olaf Tufte, of Norway, who also flew into New Zealand yesterday, is another of the big names of the field. But Campbell believes the biggest threat will come from elsewhere.

"The big, real dominant force coming through, who in some ways is a bigger threat than Mahe or myself is Ondrej Synek, from Czech Republic. He's really come into his own, he's very, very strong - much bigger than myself and a little bigger than Mahe, and he will be a big, big threat."

While the race for the single sculls crown looks wide open, the men's pair will be a two-horse race between the locals and Great Britain's Andrew Triggs Hodge and Peter Reed.

The British pair, who were part of the gold-medal winning fours team in Beijing, have played second fiddle to New Zealand's Hamish Bond and Eric Murray since switching to the two-man boat in 2009.

The scorecard reads 10-0 to Bond and Murray, leading to a great deal of second guessing in the British camp as to whether disbanding the four and putting Triggs Hodge and Reed in to a pair was the right thing to do.

But Triggs Hodge is confident the results will soon come: "Our focus is definitely on the London Olympics, that's always the main one that counts. Look at Olaf Tufte, he won two races in four years - one was Athens, the other was Beijing."

"[Coming second] does serve to push you on - they always say the loser trains hardest and I think as a pair we're really pushing forward."

- NZ Herald

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