Rowing: Women a golden chance

Sophie Mackenzie (L) and Julia Edward (R). Photo / Christine Cornege
Sophie Mackenzie (L) and Julia Edward (R). Photo / Christine Cornege

New Zealand women's rowing looks set to receive its biggest boost since Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell triumphed at the Athens and Beijing Olympics.

Four of the nine Rio-bound crews named at Lake Karapiro yesterday were tenanted by women, and each boat is capable of securing a medal.

Lightweight double scullers Julia Edward and Sophie MacKenzie, and double scullers Zoe Stevenson and Eve Macfarlane are world champions. The eight of Rebecca Scown, Genevieve Behrent, Kerri Gowler, Grace Prendergast, Kelsey Bevan, Ruby Tew, Emma Dyke, Kayla Pratt and coxswain Francie Turner were silver medallists last year. If you're looking for further depth and competitiveness, the Rio-bound pair of Scown and Behrent have been preferred over world championship silver medallists Gowler and Prendergast.

Emma Twigg, 2014 single sculls world champion, also shapes as a podium contender after a year off studying. She must qualify her boat at Lucerne in May.

To put their capability in context, New Zealand has had four women's medal-winning crews since women first participated in rowing at the Olympics in 1976. Joining the Evers-Swindells' double gold was Nikki Payne and Lynley Hannen's bronze in the pair at Seoul, and Scown and Juliette Haigh's bronze in the pair at London.

Scown is leading the revolution. She stroked the eight last year and now gets a reprieve into the pair, a boat the 32-year-old has crewed for six of her 10 seasons at elite level.

Scown and Behrent are part of an Olympic level experiment. Rio will be the first time in New Zealand's history rowers have contested more than one event at a Games.

"We'll work closely with [Dave Thompson, coach of both crews] to best manage racing and training," Scown said. "We know the situation and think it is more than achievable."

It is a relatively common strategy overseas and Gowler and Prendergast employed it last year, but the odds are higher with Olympic medals on the line.

"We wanted to create history and we've done that by qualifying the eight," Scown said.

"The new challenge at the Olympics is to do everything we can to achieve the ultimate."

- NZ Herald

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