Rowing: Ten NZ crews make finals

By Andrew Alderson, in Lucerne

Emma Twigg. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Emma Twigg. Photo / Brett Phibbs

New Zealand crews have qualified for 10 out of 15 finals at the final rowing World Cup of the season - the preamble to the world championships starting August 25 in South Korea.

The men's lightweight four of Curtis Rapley (22), Peter Taylor (29), James Lassche (23) and James Hunter (20) led the way.

The country has never won a world championship or Olympic title in the discipline. The current crew has won both World Cups this season but face strong competition to complete the set. They face the Olympic bronze medal-winning Danish crew, who they pipped at Eton Dorney, and three of the four South African gold medallists from the London Games.

Olympic lightweight double sculls bronze medallist Taylor has led the group, making a successful transition to sweep oar rowing, but coach Dave Thompson says the remaining trio have added value.

"Peter is great as a leader, but the best leader is not necessarily the best rower. You can't beat experience, but the younger guys have brought a presence too.

"One man doesn't make a boat, Curtis is a bulletproof-type guy; nothing fazes him. He a first-out-of-the-trenches sort which is what you want in the stroke seat. James Hunter's fitting in well, learning as he goes and James Lassche's success in the [non-Olympic] lightweight pair [he earned silver at the 2010 world championships] has continued."

Thompson tries to keep the advice simple, especially when such a big part of the lightweight regimen for crew boats is staying at 70kg or under.

"We spend a lot of time on technique; that is critical. If you're not proficient you're out the back door because the boats, oars and rowers are the same weight so it comes down to how well you row. Performance can also be influenced by how much the necessary weight loss affects athletes mentally. They're often starving themselves to meet the [280kg] limit."

Eight of the Kiwi finalist crews who race tonight on the Rotsee are in Olympic class boats. They include the women's single, pair, double, lightweight double and eight (a straight final) along with the men's pair, double and lightweight four. The non-Olympic lightweight women's sculler Louise Ayling and women's four finished off the podium to complete day two.

The key concerns or New Zealand came in the performances of women's single sculler Emma Twigg, men's single sculler Joseph Sullivan and the men's quad of Nathan and Hayden Cohen, Nathan Flannery and Fergus Fauvel.

Twigg won the previous World Cup but only edged into her final with a third in her semi. She was 0.3s ahead of the fourth place getter who missed out. There's a theory she may be fatigued after a heavy racing schedule over the past month.

Olympic double gold medallist Sullivan finished third in the C final (15th overall) of the men's single. He faces a tough period of contemplation over whether he trials for the men's quad in the next fortnight for the world championships, or steps away until next season.

The quad has its own difficulties. After finishing second at Sydney, albeit against a weakened field, they have missed both subsequent World Cup finals. They face further trials at home.

Coach Calvin Ferguson says they need to change their racing mindset.

"Hayden Cohen and Nathan Flannery are used to racing from behind and did so to win the under-23 world doubles title last year. It was the same for Nathan when he was with Joe in the double [at the Olympics]. In the quad they've got to race more in the pack.

They've improved but there are some pretty big guys out there. We've got to get more power behind the blade and put ourselves on the line a bit more trying to get into races."

Eating is a priority. Flannery weighs around 84kg and Fauvel is the heaviest at 92kg. Optimal crews, like the German quad that won London gold, appear to be in the mid-90kg range.

Ferguson says the crew's technique also needs work, even from an Olympic gold medallist like the older Cohen.

"I recently swapped him into the bow from three-seat. He drives the younger guys but is working at adjusting his technique to row the quad compared to what he was doing in the double. That means dropping the finish to his stroke more by not pulling it through his body as much."

In contrast Ferguson is thrilled his new men's double of Michael Arms and Robbie Manson have continued unbeaten.

"It's a good surprise [this season] but the final is going to be a tight race. With the Germans, Norwegians, Lithuanians and Italians in the hunt, it could be a blanket finish."

- Herald on Sunday

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