At just 19, Tauranga rower Grace Holland never thought she would be selected to represent New Zealand at the World Rowing U23 Championships.
But the hard work she has put in to her sport is paying off and she's now getting ready to compete at the 2019 World Rowing U23 Championships in Sarasota-Bradenton, United States between July 24-28 with her 2019 Rowing New Zealand U23 teammates.
The Tauranga Rowing Club member was selected by Rowing New Zealand to compete with North Shore Rowing Club's Catherine Layburn in the Women's U23 Coxless Pair, coached by Ian Bright. She is the only Tauranga Rowing Club member selected for the New Zealand U23 team, which was announced after trials held at Lake Karapiro in April.
Holland said she did not expect to be chosen for the U23 squad when she was selected to trial. She assumed she would make the Under 21 team but be able to use the trial as experience to help her gaining an U23 place the following year.
When Rowing New Zealand announced the team and she was included, she was shocked, excited and pleased her hard work was paying off.
"I was really, really excited," Holland says.
"I've worked really hard for it and it was awesome to get something out of that."
Between the multiple daily training sessions, Holland, who is now based at Cambridge to train fulltime at Lake Karapiro, juggles a part-time job to help fund her rowing and studies in psychology at the University of Waikato.
Because age group rowing is not funded in New Zealand, she has also started a Givealittle page to help cover the $7500 needed to compete at the Florida regatta. Ultimately, she has hopes of reaching elite level and plans to compete at the 2024 Olympic Games.
"I just really love the sport and I've always wanted to go further with it and I want to go to the Olympics one day," Holland says.
Before then however, she has next month's champs to focus on, having switched from bow side to stroke side to compete in the Florida event, which has been running for more than 40 years and formerly known as the Nation's Cup.
The World Rowing Under 23 Championships' course is situated in the 600-acre Nathan Benderson Park, which is purpose-built international regatta course and includes a separate warm-up area, as well as eight racing lanes. The regatta has 22 boat classes, 11 for men and 11 for women, and includes some of the traditional rowing boat classes like the men's and women's coxed four.
The international event, which became a championship event in 2005, showcases the up-and-coming rowers who are stepping up to be on their country's senior team.
Holland has previously represented New Zealand as a junior in at the World Rowing Junior Championship in Lithuania in 2017, as well as the New Zealand under 21 Regatta against Australia in 2018.
"To be selected [for the U23 team] is just insane, I'm loving it."
The former Tauranga Girls' College student found her passion for rowing at the Tauranga Girls' College Rowing Club. She had successes at the Maadi Cup in her last few years of School Rowing.
"I started at high school, my dad [Philip Holland] rowed as well when he was younger so I kind of saw it in him, the big interest in it.
"I loved the regattas and the training on the beautiful Tauranga harbour. The trips to Twizel were always a highlight and these have helped to motivate me further."
Her dad, Philip Holland, is impressed with the dedication his daughter puts into her craft.
"To see the work and effort she puts in to make her dreams come true is truly inspiring," he said.