It's competitive in the Gowler household in Halcombe these days with two sisters making New Zealand teams for rowing.

Kerri and Jackie Gowler both started rowing during high school, at Nga Tawa Diocesan. Kerri now rows for the New Zealand Rowing Squad and Jackie was recently selected for the New Zealand Junior Squad.

Kerri started rowing in 2009 and coach Craig Smith could see from the start she had a rare talent.

Sister Jackie Gowler Photo/File
Sister Jackie Gowler Photo/File

"We went to a camp in Wanganui and Kerri had been rowing for three weeks. She did an erg [rowing machine] and it was a good time for a beginner and I told her she was going to be rowing for New Zealand one day. She didn't believe me of course," says Smith.


At the time Kerri, now 20, was also a keen horse rider and she managed to find time to enjoy both sports.

"I first started rowing because it was something different and fun. I never thought it would become a full time occupation because I never wanted to give up horse riding."

Kerri began more intense training and realised she could not continue to compete at top level in both sports.

"I saw the more I was putting into it [rowing] the more I was getting out. I focused on my rowing more till it came to a point where I couldn't do both and chose to row," she says.

After finishing school in 2011 Kerri rowed for Regional Performance Centre (RPC) before being selected for the New Zealand Rowing Squad.

Jackie Gowler, Kerri's 17-year-old sister, started rowing in 2010 after watching Kerri's success.

"I pretty much just started to see what it was like and to potentially follow in Kerri's footsteps."

During the 2013-2014 season Jackie received gold and silver medals at North Island Secondary School Championships and the AON Maadi Cup Regatta.


She was also one of eight girls named in the 2014 New Zealand Junior Rowing squad.

Nga Tawa Diocesan School only started its rowing programme in 2008.

Roz Mexted, former principal of the school, says they did not initially intend to start a full rowing programme.

"The level of interest in the sculling programme that Craig Smith started was enormous, and the demand just grew from there."

Smith says it's not everyday you find exceptional athletes like the Gowlers, who also have an older sister, Jaimee, whose focus remains on horse riding.

"You might get one rower every five or so years with that kind of talent. Kerri's the more natural rower but Jackie's the more competitive one."

For now both girls are training - Kerri is preparing for the Rowing World Cup in July and Jackie for the Junior Rowing World Cup and Youth Olympic Games.

Both are still registered members of the Aramoho Wanganui Rowing Club and row in club colours at national tournaments.