NZ sending biggest ever rowing team to Olympics

By Andrew Alderson at Lake Karapiro

Men's Pair of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray will defend their title in Rio. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Men's Pair of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray will defend their title in Rio. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Rowing New Zealand have opted for a stable juggernaut approach to their pursuit of Rio Olympic medals.

Of the nine crews to qualify spots in the 14 Games classes, there was one personnel change and two crew substitutions at the team naming.

It is already the biggest squad New Zealand have sent to an Olympics. A total of 31 athletes fill 33 seats with the aim of earning at least five medals after trials at the sport's Lake Karapiro headquarters this week.

The country has never previously sent a women's eight and men's lightweight four to a Games. A men's eight will attend for the first time since 1984.

The eights from last season remaining unchanged but London lightweight double sculls bronze medallist Peter Taylor replaces Curtis Rapley in the lightweight four after that crew slipped from second in 2013 and 2014 to fourth at last year's world championships.

In further tinkering, Genevieve Behrent and Rebecca Scown take over in the women's pair from world championship silver medallists Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast. Each remains part of the eight.

Rio will be the first time in New Zealand's history that women rowers have contested more than one event at a Games.

It was attempted by Chris White, Greg Johnston and coxswain Andrew Bird in the coxed pair and coxed four at the Seoul Olympics. They reached the semi-final, but opted out in favour of concentrating on the four.

A further 15 athletes were named in five boat classes to contest the 'regatta of death' for last chance qualification at Lucerne in May.

Emma Twigg headlines the group. The 2014 world champion has earned back her single sculls seat after taking time out for overseas study last season. She must finish in the top three at Lucerne. Her 2015 replacement, Fiona Bourke, was not selected in any crew.

The experience of 2012 London Olympic gold medallists Mahe Drysdale, Hamish Bond and Eric Murray is expected to be pivotal to the team's success.

Bond and Murray are unrivalled with six consecutive world championships in the pair discipline. Their world record of consecutive wins at international regattas is 21, including 61 race wins. A defence of their Olympic title would confirm them as the sport's greatest coxless pair, if they're not there already.

The only remaining challengers could be Britain's Sir Matthew Pinsent and Sir Steven Redgrave, who won consecutive Olympic golds at Barcelona and Atlanta and four-straight world championships from 1991-95.

"You can't really compare over time like that," Bond said. "We've done everything we can over the last seven years. We certainly respect what they've done, but we want to write our own story."

"We've been there and done it before," Murray added. "So we know what's expected. [It's tougher] if you've never won.

"We know how to keep winning so we need to refine that, to maintain our distance in front. You're talking fractions of seconds, but that's the nature of elite sport."

Two further world champions are confirmed in the form of lightweight double scullers Julia Edward and Sophie MacKenzie, and double scullers Zoe Stevenson and Eve Macfarlane.

Despite enduring the saga associated with their coach Dick Tonks getting removed and reinstated to the national programme, Stevenson and Macfarlane are favourites to emulate the Olympic glory of Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell in 2004 and 2008.

"That brings confidence New Zealanders can do it, and produce amazing athletes," Stevenson said. "We take inspiration from them."

"It's all smooth sailing now [after the coaching crisis]. We're having fun putting in the hard work at training. Now we're selected we can get on with our squad and make improvements."

Neither athlete was considering pulling out because of the Zika virus threat at this point, but would be taking a close interest in how the issue unfolded.

World championship double sculling bronze medallists Robbie Manson and Chris Harris completed the selected crews.

New Zealand Rowing Team

Women's Double Scull
Zoe Stevenson
Eve Macfarlane

Lightweight Women's Double Scull
Julia Edward
Sophie Mackenzie

Women's Coxless Pair
Rebecca Scown
Genevieve Behrent

Women's Eight
Rebecca Scown
Genevieve Behrent
Kerri Gowler
Grace Prendergast
Kelsey Bevan
Ruby Tew
Emma Dyke
Kayla Pratt
Francie Turner (cox)

Men's Single Scull
Mahe Drysdale

Men's Double Scull
Chris Harris
Robbie Manson

Men's Coxless Pair
Hamish Bond
Eric Murray

Lightweight Men's Coxless Four
James Hunter
Alistair Bond
Peter Taylor
James Lassche

Men's Eight
Stephen Jones
Brook Robertson
Alex Kennedy
Joe Wright
Isaac Grainger
Shaun Kirkham
Michael Brake
Tom Murray
Caleb Shepherd (cox)

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 27 Oct 2016 04:16:01 Processing Time: 131ms