It's no secret rowing requires plenty of commitment and Hawke's Bay's Damien Grant took it to another level particularly for a novice.
"I can't praise Damien enough. For five months he drove down from Auckland every Friday so we could train every weekend," his twin brother Robert explained as he reflected on the pair's two silver medals at the recent national championships in Twizel.
The David Mackintosh-coached pair combined with cox Blake Campbell and Aucklanders Timothy Pavlov and Logan Mead to finish second to Timaru in the 8-crew novice quad event. They finished second to Counties-Manukau in the 16-crew men's novice double event.
"I don't know how Damien did it. We trained on the Saturday morning, he then did all the work around his house on the Saturday afternoon, worked in a bakery on Sunday morning and then returned to Auckland where he is an electrical engineer in the navy," Robert said.
The youngest of the twins, who celebrated their 27th birthday on Sunday, by 17 seconds, Robert has only been rowing for slightly more than five months. The Hawke's Bay Community Fitness Centre Trust strength and conditioning coach had been in charge of the Hawke's Bay club's dry land coaching for two seasons before deciding to take it up this summer.
"I went away to a lot of the regattas with the club and fell in love with the sport. I still train them but competing became a big focus for me this summer. I love everything about it ... rowing has agility, aerobic endurance, anaerobic endurance, flexibility and mobility," Robert said.
He pointed out the pair had some coaching for two months late last year from Mackintosh and Dave Williams but it wasn't consistent.
"During the Christmas-New Year period when Damien was home for the holidays we rowed around by ourselves. We were going so bad and realised we needed a coach if we were going to improve in the boat. David [Mackintosh] got right on board and made us so much faster," Robert, who also runs the Hawke's Bay Weightlifting Club, recalled.
"To me we exceeded expectations. But now we have to aim for gold in the club division at next year's nationals."
Coach Mackintosh has plenty of admiration for the twins who took up rowing in late October, six weeks after the club's season began. He said they showed promise at Whanganui's Jury Cup regatta in December when they won the novice double sculls against fair opposition.
"As a strength and conditioning officer Robert has certainly walked the talk."
"We set a goal of winning gold at the nationals at Lake Ruataniwha and very nearly pulled it off. The commentator called them first in the final but the photo finish showed two crews finishing in 7m35s with our boys .02 of a second behind Counties-Manukau. Our first row together with the quad was a row over the day before the final and the final was our second row together," Mackintosh explained.
"We have only been able to train on the Clive River in the weekends due to Damien's navy commitments in Auckland. So our time together has been very limited, compared to the other crews who have had a full season rowing together four or five times a week.
"In my opinion the twin brothers are true Kiwi battlers who are making their own way in life. I know a little of their early background. They were bought up by their foster Mum and Dad, and don't talk about their life with their biological parents.
"They have been an inspiration to me as their coach in dedication and drive," Mackintosh added.
Campbell returned home from Twizel with three silver medals as he coxed the Carina Burgess-coached women's intermediate four of Emily Wood, Emma Downey, Mia Caves and Madeleine Parker which finished second. The Ross Webb-coached women's novice eight crew of Libby Stewart, Raina Mackenzie, Ari Wright, Olivia Achten, Mackenzie Varcoe, Georgia Niblett, Libby Christie, Kate Stewart and coxswain Caitlin Rowland won bronze.
In addition to these medals three Hawke's Bay club members won medals with their respective regional performance centre crews. Olympian Emma Twigg celebrated her return to the code after a spell with gold in the premier women's single scull and with the Waikato centre's premier women's coxless quadruple scull crew.
Jess Turfrey won gold with the Waikato centre's women's under-22 coxless four and silver with the women's quadruple scull crew in the same age group. Giacomo Thomas captured silver with the Auckland centre's men's premier double sculls and coxless quadruple sculls crews.