Marlborough’s representatives in the New Zealand elite rowing team are ready for lift off.
The bulk of the Kiwi team left NZ on Thursday, bound for Europe and a three-month campaign.
First up is World Cup 2, in Poznan, Poland, from June 21-23, followed by World Cup 3 in Rotterdam, Netherland from 12-14 July. Then it is on to the season’s main event, the world championships in Ottensheim, Austria, from August 25 to September 1. With Olympic qualification at stake at the worlds this regatta assumes even more importance a year out from the Games in Japan.
Seven athletes from Marlborough clubs are part of the NZ contingent, including five from the Wairau club.
Robbie Manson will crew the men’s single scull, Sophie MacKenzie, returning to the top level after a lengthy absence, will row the women’s lightweight single while Kirstyn Goodger, Ella Greenslade and Ian Seymour were included in their respective sweep squads, from which the men’s and women’s four and eight crews will be chosen.
Hailing from the Blenheim club, Tom Murray is selected to row the men’s pair with Michael Brake, while club mate Harrison Somerville will compete in the men’s lightweight double alongside Matt Dunham.
Somerville said their build-up had gone well.
“There have been a few bumps along the way but there’s been a lot of positive changes for us and we are coming together well as a crew.
“It feels exciting, I haven’t been to the World Cups before so it’s going to be a long and interesting campaign.
“I am nervous … but I’d be worried if I wasn’t.
“The World Cup regattas are going to be an important chance for us to further ourselves as a crew. We both want to do really well in them, but the big picture for us is World Champs.”
That scenario is similar for Manson, who dominated throughout the World Cup events last season, only to miss out on a medal at the worlds, finishing fifth.
This time around he and coach Mike Rodger have a different game plan.
“I feel like I am probably not going as fast as I was at this time over the last couple of years – which is a good thing,” said Manson.
“I don’t have huge expectations going into the World Cups … it’s about getting race practice at this stage … but obviously you turn up on the start line and do your best … it will be interesting just to see where I am at.”
Last season Manson had the spectre of Mahe Drysdale looming large over his shoulder as he prepared for the World Cup meetings, the pair having to go head-to-head at the final regatta to earn a place at the worlds.
This year their contest for the single spot was settled in March, leaving the Wairau man free to shape his build-up in a more traditional fashion.
“Last year I obviously had to do well at the World Cups so we prepared more so for that, but this year the training programme has been completely different … I haven’t done any speed work to this point so I will be going into the World Cups very underdone as opposed to the past two years. The plan is then to build into the world champs but to have somewhere to go [in terms of improvement].”
MacKenzie, who is recovering from a lingering injury, didn’t fly out with the Kiwi team but hopes to join them for World Cup 3.
Murray and Brake combined for a well-judged win in World Cup 3 last year, but when the world champs came around they could only manage fifth. They, and most of the Kiwi team, will be hoping to turn those results around this season.
Murray said their training was well ahead of last year, when both rowers had serious injuries to come back from.
“The first World Cup of the year is always exciting,” he said. “It will be great to see where we are compared to our opposition, although the main focus is definitely the world champs.”