Olympics: Twigg relaxed about tough field

By Dylan Cleaver

New Zealand rowing single scull Emma Twigg relaxes at the day base at Taplow, Eton, London. She believes the gold medal winner could be the mentally toughest, not necessarily the strongest physically. Photo / Brett Phibbs
New Zealand rowing single scull Emma Twigg relaxes at the day base at Taplow, Eton, London. She believes the gold medal winner could be the mentally toughest, not necessarily the strongest physically. Photo / Brett Phibbs

By her own admission, single sculler Emma Twigg has had an up-and-down European campaign. That's okay, so long as the next week is the "up" part.

The 25-year-old hopes to follow in the tradition of fellow Hawkes Bay products Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell and bring sculling gold back to the country.

Twigg is one crew in a clutch of New Zealand contenders, but her path to glory looks a little more complicated than some.

In the field is veteran Ekaterina Karsten, the Belarusian legend who has won two Olympic golds and six single sculls world championships, the last in Poznan three years ago. Her first Olympics was under the banner of a unified Russian team in Barcelona, 20 years ago.

The defending Olympic champion is Czech Mirka Knapkova, who has found herself trailing China's Xiuyun Zhang recently. If that wasn't a tough enough field for Twigg to negotiate, Australian Kim Crow had decided to enter the single and double sculls.

"She's an amazing athlete and she proved how good she is by getting silver [at the world cup regatta] in Lucerne. She would have won it if it wasn't for a last-minute 'crab' on the line.

"She's definitely a contender which makes four or five of us going for the medals. It will be really tough."

With that in mind, Twigg has set herself a seemingly modest goal: make the final. That should not be read as an admission that she would be comfortable with fourth, fifth or sixth. Once she gets there, she'll be doing everything to win, but you can't win if you're not there.

"It's just a matter of putting it all together, first of all making the final and then doing the best I can ... If you get to the final it's anyone's game."

In Richard Tonks, Twigg has a mentor with a reputation for getting athletes peaking at the right moments. The strikingly tall Twigg's calloused hands are evidence of the work she has been putting in over the past two months.

She needed to after hopping off the plane and getting well beaten into fifth at a world cup regatta at Lucerne.

"It's been an up-and-down season for me if I'm being honest. Lucerne was a bit of a shock. It made me realise that this year everybody ups their game."

Twigg, who won bronze at the 2010 and 2011 world championships, bounced back at the next world cup regatta in Munich, finishing second.

"It's going to be interesting in the early rounds to see how things go. I'm confident in the training I've done."

Another factor at play will be the wind, which often blows across the course, advantaging the rowers in the sheltered lanes and the extraordinary atmosphere that is expected to be generated. Twigg believes the winner could be the mentally toughest, if not necessarily the physically strongest.

"When we walked into the course yesterday, it hit home what we were here for. When we were at Karapiro in 2010 and we had the grandstand behind us we thought that was pretty impressive, but to see three or four of those on each side of the course makes you realise how big it is going to be."

Twigg describes herself as "pretty chilled". She may need to be.

- NZ Herald

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