Gold rush for NZ rowers

Robbie Manson (L) and Michael Arms. Photo / Getty Images.
Robbie Manson (L) and Michael Arms. Photo / Getty Images.

New Zealand's rowers began the year in familiar fashion, winning eight medals - five of them gold - at the first world cup event in Sydney today.

An untested Kiwi team put all 10 crews in A finals at the regatta, marking the start of the new Olympic cycle the same way they ended the previous one in London.

But, perhaps most promisingly ahead of the world championships in August, Peter Taylor in the lightweight four was the only athlete to medal this weekend who also stood on the podium at the Olympics.

With the likes of Mahe Drysdale and the men's pair of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond absent, the majority of the successful Kiwi crews in Sydney were thrown together after the national trials earlier in the month.

But the new combinations were a resounding success at the regatta and, after Duncan Grant kicked things off by winning the lightweight single scull last night, the rest of the team continued the gold rush today.

The men's double scull and lightweight four both triumphed, while the women's double scull and lightweight double scull also won their finals.

The men's quadruple scull took silver, while the men's four and the women's quadruple scull emerged with bronze.

It was a particularly pleasing result for Michael Arms and Robbie Manson in the double scull. The two earned a ticket to Sydney after the national selectors opted to break up the Olympic gold medal-winning crew of Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan, sending the former into the quadruple scull and leaving out the latter altogether.

But Arms and Manson, who came seventh in the quadruple scull in London, provided some vindication for that decision with a successful race today, edging into a clear water lead in the last 500m and coming home strongly to best crews from Estonia, Australia and Great Britain.

The lightweight women's double of Lucy Strack and Julia Edward were the next to win gold, before the women's double of Zoe Stevenson and Fiona Bourke also triumphed. The men's lightweight four of Taylor, Curtis Rapley, James Hunter and James Lassche then rounded out the regatta to win New Zealand's fifth gold.

Taylor, who won bronze in the lightweight double scull in London, said the early successes created something of a domino effect among the rest of the team.

"You see one New Zealand crew do well and they came past with a medal hanging around their neck and say `all the best' to you. The New Zealand team's really supportive of each other and everyone else's performance spurred each other on.''

With his boat being among one of the new combinations, Taylor said he was especially pleased with how quickly they gelled.

"For my crew it was pretty cool. We only had trials two weeks ago and we've only been together for a week. So it's come together nicely from the start but, from here, it's all about backing it up and trying to repeat this performance for the next regatta.

The New Zealand squad will head home tomorrow for a couple of months' training at Lake Karapiro to prepare for the second world cup event in June, being held at Eton Dorney, the venue of the 2012 Olympic Games.

New Zealand will hold high hopes of again dominating the waters of Eton with an almost full strength squad competing, including Murray and Bond, single sculler Emma Twigg and the women's pair of Rebecca Scown and Kayla Pratt.

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New Zealand medal tally at world cup event in Sydney:

Gold

Men's lightweight single Scull (Duncan Grant)

Men's double scull (Michael Arms and Robbie Manson)

Women's lightweight double scull (Julia Edward, Lucy Stack)

Women's double scull (Zoe Stevenson, Fiona Bourke)

Men's lightweight four (Peter Taylor, Curtis Rapley, James Hunter, James Lassche)

Silver

Men's quadruple scull (Hayden Cohen, Nathan Flannery, Fergus Fauvel, Nathan Cohen)

Bronze

Women's quadruple scull (Erin-Monique Shelton, Genevieve Armstrong, Georgia Perry, Sarah Gray)

Men's four (Bobby Kells, Adam Tripp, Tobias Wehr-Candler, Jade Uru)

- APNZ

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