Olympics: Rowers aim for 14 qualifiers

By David Leggat

Emma Twigg. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Emma Twigg. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Nine down, five to go - that's New Zealand's mission boiled down at the final rowing qualifying regatta for the Rio Olympics, starting in Lucerne tomorrow.

Rowing New Zealand are aiming to be on the start line in all 14 events at Rio, which would be an outstanding return. They qualified in 11 at London four years ago and have added two eights crews, who won their places at last year's world championships.

You can lock in 2014 world champion Emma Twigg to secure the single scull spot, but the other four crews look to have a stern challenge: 2012 Olympic champion lightweight double scullers Mads Rasmussen and Rasmus Quist have still to qualify and only two of 13 entries will qualify.

France, third in the European Championships men's coxless four this month, are in Lucerne and well regarded. So, too, the Olympic champion women's quad from Ukraine, albeit with slightly changed personnel.

There'll be no easy passes and Rowing New Zealand chief executive Simon Peterson acknowledged yesterday if New Zealand get all 14 to Rio it will be "a historic moment and a really significant achievement".

"It was a vision we set for the Tokyo Olympics [in 2020] and just shows the depth, acceleration and growth in the sport that we have a chance to achieve it in 2016."

New Zealand would have hoped to get more than nine across the line at the worlds last year, but the men's quad missed out by 0.06s and the women's quad were sixth in the A final, but needed to be in the top five to advance directly to Rio.

Peterson says the success of New Zealand at the under-23 world champs two years ago, when the country topped the medal table for the first time, is often overlooked.

"That's where the men's eight came from and a lot of depth in the women's programme. That was a really significant achievement for us. It may be a surprise to others, but we saw it coming."

No country has nailed down all 14 spots at Rio yet. Britain are closest with 12, missing only the women's singles and quad. The United States have 10, Germany nine.

None of the crews are there for the ride. "We wouldn't be sending these five crews if we didn't believe they had a chance," Peterson said. "We're not flipping a coin.

"It's a calculated programme behind all this with the sports science involved these days and we're looking forward to this weekend and being successful with all five crews."

Racing begins on the Rotsee course tomorrow night (NZT).

NZ crews

Final Olympic qualifying regatta, Lucerne, tomorrow:

Women's single scull: Emma Twigg (13 entries, top three qualify)

Men's lightweight double scull: Adam Ling, Toby Cunliffe-Steel (13, 2)

Men's four: Drikus Conradie, Axel Dickinson, Patrick McInnes, Anthony Allen (7, 2)

Women's quad: Brook Donoghue, Georgia Perry, Lucy Spoors, Sarah Gray (7, 2)

Men's quad: John Storey, George Bridgewater, Nathan Flannery, Jade Uru (7, 2).

- NZ Herald

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