Rowing: Women's champs put their oars in for Tonks

Women's elite double, Zoe Stevenson (L) and Eve McFarlane (R). Photo / Christine Cornege.
Women's elite double, Zoe Stevenson (L) and Eve McFarlane (R). Photo / Christine Cornege.

The Dick Tonks-Rowing New Zealand spat could have blown another less-publicised Rio Olympic medal prospect off course, in addition to single sculler Mahe Drysdale.

Tonks and the governing body reached a compromise after the coach's contract was terminated for mentoring Chinese crews on Lake Karapiro without Rowing NZ's permission.

Defending Olympic champion Drysdale acted as a "Bring Back Tonks" advocate around the negotiating table during the impasse.

In the background, world champion double scullers Zoe Stevenson and Eve Macfarlane offered input too.

Stevenson, 24, and Macfarlane, 23, won their title in September; Stevenson and Fiona Bourke also won in 2014 before Bourke was seconded to the single sculls in the absence of Emma Twigg.

Whichever of the trio are selected, they will be favourites to join Caroline Meyer and Georgina Earl as the other New Zealand women to win gold in the class.

The women's double sculls provides the perfect pace boat training partner for Drysdale through data gleaned from weight and oar power.

Drysdale knows if he can match the world champions in training, he is primed to succeed himself.

Stevenson said they placed their faith in Drysdale securing the best outcome.

"We were incredibly lucky our interests were so aligned. We could trust him to be a champion for us, because he always considered us part of his team. He needs us as much as we need him."

Eve and I had our opinions heard but tried to keep out of it so we could continue training without getting too stressed. We trusted . . . it would be worked through. It would have been hard if things had fallen to the wayside."

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.

Stevenson and Macfarlane had their first training session back on Lake Karapiro under Tonks' guidance yesterday [Friday] morning.

"It was like nothing had changed, we picked up where we left off," Stevenson said.

"We are so used to the way he [Tonks] operates. You adapt. That's where I'm at. High performance is my goal. It's not the easy option, but it makes us faster, and that's all we really care about.

"Yes, he's hard. Yes, it's difficult. But we want to go as fast as we can and he's the man to do it for us."Stevenson, Macfarlane and Bourke will endeavour to secure an Olympic berth at the trials starting on February 27, after the national championships.

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