Rowing: Coaches alert for clues in Europe

By David Leggat

NZ keen for data on rivals as crews head towards 'regatta of death' in Olympic buildup.

New Zealand rowing coaches will have a keen eye on this weekend's European championships in Germany.

That high-calibre event will provide useful information as New Zealand prepare to head to Lucerne for the so-called regatta of death where final places for the Rio Olympic programme will be decided.

Although high-performance boss Alan Cotter is happy with developments in terms of New Zealand tracking well for Rio, performances from the leading European nations in Brandenburg will provide important extra data to be thrown into the mix.

"We're pretty happy with where we're at," Cotter said at Lake Karapiro yesterday. "But we will have better idea where we're sitting with European championships.

"Crews at the death regatta will be there so we'll get an idea how they compare timewise.

"We had a winter series of races last Friday, Saturday and Sunday, like a World Cup [regatta], and all the crews were well bunched together against the world best times, so we're pretty pleased."

Rowing New Zealand long ago earmarked being on the startline in all 14 Olympic classes in Rio. They had 11 in London four years ago, and exceeded expectations in winning five medals, three of them gold.

This time it's an ambitious project and RNZ would certainly have liked to have had more than nine already secured from last year's world championships.

Former world single-sculling champion Emma Twigg, returning after a year of study in Europe, should qualify comfortably but the women's quad and men's lightweight double, quad and coxless four can expect a serious challenge in Lucerne.

"We wouldn't have selected them if we didn't think they have a chance," Cotter said. "But it's tight and that's what qualifying is all about."

These are happy times for rowing. Last year, New Zealand won seven medals in Olympic events at the world champs.

Their target for Rio is to match the five from London and preferably exceed it, but Cotter is cautious.

"Not too many countries in rowing get above five [medals] at the Olympics. Last year at the world champs our crews achieved great results so there's a standard set by coaches and athletes.

"They don't want to go backwards. They want to achieve what they are capable of, and what they've shown."

Cotter, a former New Zealand cox, reckons the current state of elite rowing is the best he's seen in strength and depth, which justifies the bid for 14 crews in Rio.

"We've just selected 33 under 23 athletes and 28 juniors so we've got a good pathway going.

"We have given athletes every chance, if they're up to the standard, to be selected. We're really happy with the quality of athletes here, their commitment and attitude."

Rowing to Rio

• New Zealand have qualified nine crews for Rio and aim to complete a full set of 14 entries, with the other five out to progress through the final qualifying regatta in Lucerne from May 22-25.
• The five NZ crews still to confirm places in Rio are the women's single scull and quad, and men's lightweight double scull, coxless four and quad. They leave for Europe on Monday with the main team departing on May 20.
• In most events there are two spots on offer to qualify for Rio, with three for the single scullers.
• There are two World Cups for pre-Rio preparation for NZ's Olympic squad, in Lucerne from May 27-29 and Poznan, Poland on June 17-29.

- NZ Herald

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