They might be lightweight athletes but Peter Taylor, Storm Uru, Louise Ayling and Julia Edward have become heavyweight New Zealand medal hopes at the London Olympics.

If either rowing crew reaches the podium they would create history. Since lightweight rowing was admitted to the Games programme in 1996, New Zealand has never had a medal.

After missing the Beijing Games final, double scullers Taylor (28) and Uru (27) are odds on to make the London dais if their form in two World Cups this year - 2nd in Lucerne and 1st in Munich - is a gauge.

They are past world champions (2009) and have been on the podium each year since (3rd in 2010 and 2nd in 2011).


In 2008 they only had six weeks preparation for the Games because they had to qualify the boat at the 'regatta of death'. This time they've had four years to get sorted.

"Back then we were green, bewildered and new [as a combination] to the elite team," Taylor says.

"We were disappointed in Beijing but drew huge inspiration watching the Evers-Swindell twins miss the final in their last World Cup regatta but win Olympic gold. We've hopefully instilled that belief into our training."

Edward (21) and Ayling (24) have been a revelation in the women's lightweight double. While their heavyweight men's and women's counterparts have struggled to match last year's world championship podium results, this combination has triumphed with a 2nd in Lucerne and a win in Munich.

Rowing is intertwined with terms like discipline, sacrifice and teamwork. Those words take on extra meaning for lightweight crews.

Olympic lightweight rowers are already part of an exclusive club. Of the sport's 14 Olympic classes, only three sit under the lightweight banner - men's and women's double sculls and men's coxless four.

There's no opportunity to linger at the buffet. Athletes must meet severe weight restrictions. No male can weigh over 72.5kg; no female can weigh over 59kg. Male crews have to average 70kg (140kg for Uru and Taylor); female crews have to average 57kg (114kg for Edward and Ayling).

Taylor says that makes life difficult at their current camp in Hazewinkel, Belgium, a country renowned for its chocolate, cheese and beer.


"I spent a few days gorging on chocolate after our last race but it's back to discipline now," Taylor says. "I just chucked on extra clothes in training to lose a few grams. It was hardestgetting down to size at Lucerne after 48 hours' travel and racing within four to five days of exiting the New Zealand winter."

Women's lightweight coach John Robinson says his duo is well educated on what it can eat.

"I don't have to police the buffet, put it that way. Julia is a natural lightweight whereas Louise has a slightly bigger frame but is disciplined.

"I compare that to some crews you see preparing for races in scarves, hats and coats. The poor buggers are all trying to peel off a few last-minute grams."

On paper both crews are medal contenders but Taylor knows Olympic Games can play strange tricks.

One sub-plot playing out in their event is the uncharacteristic poor form of British combination Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter. The defending world and Olympic champions have managed just 6th in the finals of their last two regattas.


"The Brits still know how to row," Taylor says. "They won their semifinal at the Munich World Cup. Plus we've got strong crews like the French, the Canadians, the Danes and the Italians putting their hands up."

Taylor is also conscious of closing out their races after leading through the middle 1000m of the 2011 world championship final, only for the Brits to pip them by 0.34s.

"Storm and I were thrilled to step things up in Munich. We led through each of the key 500m marks. That came after we had to come from last at the 500m mark in Lucerne to get second behind the French."

With the women, Robinson has focused on their set-up and removed any negativitysurrounding their performances.

"I changed [former single sculls specialist and stroke seat] Louise by putting her in the bow and tightening her stroke behind Julia. Otherwise it's been a case of avoiding anxiety. Sure there's not much between the top crews, but [Edward and Ayling] haven't got into their fully-fledged buildup yet.

"I don't want to push them too hard. A lack of body fat can see them get tired and we can ill afford injuries at this point."