Hunter: Training where the medals won

By David Leggat

James Hunter, Alistair Bond, Matthew Dunham and James Lassche (from right) held off quality opposition to win at Lucerne. Photo / AP
James Hunter, Alistair Bond, Matthew Dunham and James Lassche (from right) held off quality opposition to win at Lucerne. Photo / AP

Winning World Cup races is all well and good in the leadup to the August Olympic Games, but a lake in the middle of Switzerland will be at least as important for New Zealand crews aiming for gold in Rio.

A large chunk of New Zealand's Olympic rowing squad have been in Sursee, half an hour north of Lucerne, for the past week through until the end of next week putting in a solid training block ahead of the final cup regatta in Poland in a fortnight.

Three crews won their A finals at the second regatta in Lucerne last weekend. While single sculler Mahe Drysdale and coxless pair Eric Murray and Hamish Bond are familiar sights at the top of the dais, for the lightweight four it was an occasion to savour. They won in 6m 02.140s, holding off world champions Switzerland by just under two seconds.

The win, on the back of a sizzling third quarter after a sluggish start, was achieved without the experience of Peter Taylor, who was resting a back strain. Matthew Dunham took his place alongside stroke James Hunter, Alistair Bond and bowman James Lassche.

While the win was nice confirmation that they are tracking well, Hunter said nothing beats plugging away, out of sight, up and down a training lake.

"It's very important," Hunter said. "Sometimes it can almost feel the regattas get in the way a bit because you have to take a week out of fulltime training to put a good race together. Training is where the medals are won."

There was considerable satisfaction out of victory in Lucerne.

"It's been so long since we raced a crew in our boat class, you can get a bit nervous. You don't know where the standard is, but we had been performing really well. It was a bit of an unknown."

Hunter, Christchurch-born, Wellington educated and now Cambridge-based, was in the bow seat when New Zealand were fourth at last year's worlds, following second placings behind Denmark in 2013 and 2014. Now he's at the other end of the boat, presenting him with a fresh challenge. The other three rowers have the speed of their stroke determined by the man in the stroke seat.

"It's a bit different. The biggest thing is in the bow seat you're limited in terms of the work you can put in and sometimes when the boat was not going too well I found it hard to do that.

"In the stroke seat I find I can work really hard. I'm still learning to pace myself a bit. Sometimes you get to the last 200m and you're a bit knackered and have to dig deeper than you'd want.

"I think it's a bit of a myth that it all comes from the stroke seat. Everyone's responsible for the rhythm. If one person's out [of sync] it's all over."

Hunter believes the New Zealand squad are in a good space after bagging eight medals in Lucerne out of 10 events entered. Clearly there are no guarantees for Rio success, but the vibe is good.

"Really happy. All crews did really well and someone said it's important you know where you stand. The crews have got a lot of good feedback where they at.

"We all know we've got a lot of work to do, but it's nice to know the work we have done has actually been spot on," Hunter said.

- NZ Herald

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