Photos, autographs and the chance to touch an Olympic medal ...

It proved too good a chance to miss on Saturday as Whanganui's Olympic rowers Rebecca Scown and Chris Harris came back to their home town. The sun shone on a day of celebration for our Olympians and wherever the pair went there was a queue of fans keen to get up close and personal.

A stroll around the River Traders' market was followed by a walk up to Majestic Square where a competition on erg rowing machines was set up on the stage.

A number of students were put through their paces, while mayoral contender William Osborne decided to race Harris. It was no contest as a gasping Mr Osborne admitted afterwards.


There was a celebration lunch at Cooks Gardens and the pair were then introduced to the crowd prior to the Wanganui v Thames Valley Heartland rugby match.

For Scown, 33, who won the silver medal at the Rio Olympics partnering Genevieve Behrent in the coxless pair, it is only a short break.

She will be back on the water competing in the Head of the Charles regatta on Boston's Charles River in the United States later this month, rowing in a women's eight made up of finalists from the coxless pairs event in Rio.

Then, on November 6, she breaks new ground by running the New York marathon. It is her first marathon, and she is fundraising for the the Catwalk Trust, a charity which supports those with spinal cord injuries -

The New Zealand rowing squad is due back in training at the end of November but Scown, who first picked up an oar as a student at Wanganui Collegiate, is considering taking a year's break.

"I've been doing it since 2005, so maybe some time out," said the Union Boat Club member.

However, Harris, a member of the Aramoho-Wanganui club, will be back with the NZ elite squad in November and hopes to be involved in four years time when the Tokyo Olympics come round.

A semifinalist in Rio in the double sculls with Robbie Manson, Harris was enjoying time off in Whanganui - "My parents have just moved to Palmerston North, but Whanganui's still home."

Councillor Philippa Baker-Hogan, who mooted the idea of a celebration after Scown's silver medal, was rapt. "The highlight was possibly the time at Majestic Square with our young rowers and their supporters - kids were still buzzing about it - and I know Rebecca and Chris really enjoyed getting connected with Whanganui again."