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Tonks to continue coaching NZ crews

Dick Tonks. Photo / File
Dick Tonks. Photo / File

Lake Karapiro will be an intriguing workplace this week.

Estranged rowing coach Dick Tonks returns to its waters to mentor Olympic medal hopefuls Mahe Drysdale and the women's double scullers to the Rio Games.

Today, Tonks and Rowing New Zealand reached a pragmatic compromise after the termination of Tonks' contract for coaching Chinese crews on the lake without the governing body's permission.

The agreement gives both Kiwi crews security through to the Games.

The rowers will continue as part of the high performance programme and use its facilities, with Tonks joining them on the water.

"We looked at what was best for us," Drysdale told NZME, speaking about himself and the women's double, a crew likely to feature two of Zoe Stevenson and Eve Macfarlane (the incumbents) and Fiona Bourke.

"Some ground was given, we're appreciative of that, because we wanted [Dick] to be part of the programme," Drysdale added.

"Rowing NZ's got some good coaches who would've been fine, but we'd have to build new relationships. That's not ideal seven months from the Games."

Listen to Mark Watson's full interview with Mahe Drysdale:

Drysdale was asked why working with Tonks was often perceived as difficult.

"This is high performance sport," the defending Olympic champion said. "We need 100 per cent trust in Dick. He has proved it time and again with myself and other crews. The guy has helped win five Olympic golds. Some of his methods are not for everyone but, if I'm pushed off the pontoon by Dick at Rio, then I've done everything I need to win gold. Mentally, that's a plus. You can't compromise this close to an Olympics."

Drysdale, New Zealand Athletes Federation representatives Roger Mortimer and Heath Mills, and Rowing NZ chief executive Simon Peterson and high performance manager Alan Cotter sat around the table at various stages to find common ground. The information was conveyed via Mortimer and Drysdale back to Tonks.

"Rowing New Zealand has delivered on its promise to find an appropriate solution," chief executive Simon Peterson said.

Read more:
Dick Tonks' squabble with Rowing New Zealand is plain weird
Rowers the priority in Tonks saga
Dick Tonks disaster: How did it get to this?

A key issue is that Drysdale needs a challenging training partner. The women's double, whatever the final make-up, fit the bill.

Peterson said Rowing NZ was empathetic about the rowers' situation, but was confident the programme could have catered for them. They were coached by Gary Hay in recent weeks.

"You can make life hard if you want to, but we've risen above that," Peterson said. "We're prepared to incorporate the need for athletes on tour to have Dick's involvement. It'd be unbecoming to do anything else."

The initial desire for Tonks to have no involvement with the Chinese athletes had to be compromised now the coach is a free agent.

Tonks could not be contacted for comment.

- NZ Herald

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