Rowing: Strong opening day for NZ crews

By Andrew Alderson in Chungju

A trend continued for Rowing New Zealand on the opening day of heats at the world championships in South Korea.

Nine of the country's 14 crews competed. The six smaller boats (with either one or two rowers aboard) each progressed to the next round. The three crews with four rowers aboard (both quads and the men's coxless four) were diverted into tomorrow's repechages.

Despite the long-term success of the national rowing programme, the last time a New Zealand crew of four or more won a world championship was 2007 when the coxless four of Hamish Bond, Eric Murray, James Dallinger and Carl Meyer triumphed at Munich. The lightweight men's four, who compete in heats today, are the combination most likely to challenge the trend at this regatta.

Racing was completed in calm conditions at the man-made lake in the lush Korean hinterland as an Asian country hosts the world championships for the second time. The first was at Gifu, Japan in 2005, site of four New Zealand gold medals. An early morning haze burnt off yesterday, leaving athletes to deal with heat and humidity.

Mahe Drysdale's recent bike accident failed to dent his single sculls heat win. It was his first race at an international regatta since taking Olympic gold more than a year ago in London. He is through to Wednesday's quarter-finals, as is Duncan Grant in the lightweight class with third in his heat.

Women's lightweight sculler Louise Ayling finished second to qualify for Thursday's semi-finals.

The men's pair of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray won their heat by more than 13 seconds to progress. It was a convincing start to a campaign which, if successful, will see them hold the outright record for the longest streak of international regatta wins with 16.

"The race pretty much went to plan," Murray said. "We aimed to be as efficient as possible, it is never easy. We have a few more gears depending on the pressure that comes at us."

The women's pair of Rebecca Scown and Kayla Pratt are also through to the semi-finals after placing second behind the Netherlands.

Lightweight women's double scullers Julia Edward and Lucy Strack finished second, 1.03s behind Britain to progress as well.

"The conditions were tough," Strack said. "The sun was beating down. We had a good first 1000m, it was a close finish and they just got us in the last 500m."

An acclimatisation process of almost a fortnight appears to be paying off for the New Zealanders but it remained a struggle for the bigger crews.

The men's four were fourth and both quads were fifth in their respective heats as they each tried to improve on disappointing results in the European season.

The men's and women's double sculls, the lightweight men's four, women's eight and single race heats today.

Andrew Alderson travelled to South Korea courtesy of Rowing New Zealand and its principal partner Bankstream

- NZ Herald

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