International rower Lassi Karonen has been added to a growing list of world-class scullers confirmed for this year's Aon Billy Webb Challenge on the Whanganui River on December 9.
The Swede was a late starter in the sport. Initially into church boats (traditional rowboats), he opted to focus on rowing in 2004.
Karonen decided the way to improve was to train with someone better. He chose Olaf Tufte (the first international Billy Webb competitor) - the best at the time. He trained in Norway with Tufte and made his national team at the age of 27.
Since, he has been a regular A finalist in World Cups. He was sixth in the Beijing Olympics and fourth in London this year, just missing out on a bronze to Alan Campbell (the last Billy Webb international competitor).
Karonen holds the Swedish rowing machine records of 5.44.4 for the 200m and 15.04.4 for the 5000m. He attributes his success on the machines to having to train on them because of Sweden's waters icing over for the winter.
He also has an amazing oxygen absorption level, measured at 7.19 l/min; the highest value measured in American sport.
The 1.93m-tall swede is a building engineer when not rowing and hails from Uppsala, a university town.
Karonen's inclusion adds to an exciting field that includes Kiwi gold medallists Mahe Drysdale, Eric Murray, Nathan Cohen and Joe Sullivan.
Meanwhile, event organiser Rose Austin said interest in the corporate eight race was building although final numbers had yet to be confirmed.
"The idea is to encourage the corporate eight teams to train up to 10 times over a five or six-week period leading up to the event, so there's still time for teams to enter," Austin said.