World champion rower Phoebe Trolove hopes a return to her home town will maintain the momentum she has built in the demanding sport over the past few seasons.
In August last year the 18-year-old stroked the New Zealand women’s quad to gold at the world junior champs in Tokyo, icing a highly-impressive junior CV the youngster has been compiling since 2017.
After completing her primary education at Rapaura and Renwick schools, Phoebe moved to Timaru’s Craighead Diocesan in year nine, where her rowing career took off.
A gold in the coxless quad at the 2017 nationals was followed by silver in the under-18 single and gold in the under-17 double at the 2018 Maadi Cup. In 2019 she bagged the prestigious under-18 single sculls crown at Maadi and added a silver in the quad, leading to her national selection and a world title in Japan.
With her school days at an end, Phoebe was recruited by the Central Rowing Performance Centre, based at the Wairau River, necessitating a return to Marlborough and immersion in an intensive rowing programme, designed to help talented youngsters on the pathway to elite selection.
The culture at the RPC was “very different” from what she had previously experienced.
“One thing for sure, we do a lot more Ks. In Timaru we were only able to row for one kilometre then we had to turn the boat around, here we can row for up to 15km, if we wanted to,” she said.
“There has certainly been a big jump between school and the RPC … the early wake-ups are hard, but you do what you have to do.”
An advantage of the RPC set-up is the size of the squad. There are only six non-NZ Summer Squad rowers in the camp, and just two females, so coaching can be more one-on-one.
“It’s cool because we are all quite close but we have to pace ourselves against the guys so the intensity has stepped up quite a lot, having to keep up with people older and faster than you. It makes you more competitive though and I feel I’m getting faster.”
Her training programme includes twice-daily sessions, except on Sunday, a varied diet of weights, ergs, hill walks and on-water rowing designed to have her ready for the forthcoming South Island and national champs.
Although she has achieved most of her success as a sculler, Phoebe maintains a sweep-oared four is her preference. “A good four is awesome, so much fun … a good sweeping boat, once you get it going, is amazing.”
Her immediate goals are clear. After competing at the SI champs and Nationals, Phoebe hopes to be chosen to trial for the NZ under-23 team. If she misses that opportunity she will look at trialling for the NZ under-21s. As she is tackling some Otago University papers, she is also eligible to try out for the NZ Universities team this season.
Longer term she has her sights set on a place in the NZ elite squad and a shot at the 2024 Olympics.
“It would be pretty cool to do [rowing] as a job … but at the moment it’s about finding a balance, getting a degree and working my way up the rowing pathway.”
Having rubbed shoulders with several of the world’s best rowers, Phoebe has a rough idea of what it will take to reach that elite level and highlighted one particular trait she had noticed.
“Just stubbornness … most of the elites that I have met they are just so stubborn that they won’t give up. If they set their mind to something they are not going to half-ass it … they are going to go 100 percent or nothing at all, never backing down.”
Asked if she had a competitive streak to match, the junior champion suggested with a laugh, “almost too much”.
“[Rowing’s] also very psychological, just knowing to listen to what you are doing, not let your mind take over and start pushing you back … that’s quite a big part.”
Noting that she is not particularly tall for a top-level rower, Phoebe says she is working hard on her technique with Central RPC and NZ coach Marion Horwell, as she builds towards attaining the level of her role models.
They include elite world champions Emma Dyke [women’s eight] and single sculler Emma Twigg.
“Emma [Dyke] went to Craighead and I know her well, she’s awesome. I also had a yarn to Emma Twigg and that was brilliant … she is so down-to-earth. There’s also Mahe Drysdale, he is so knowledgeable.”
The former basketballer has a group of friends who have succeeded in that sport, providing more inspiration.
“There’s Ashlee Strawbridge, Milly Knight and Sammy Arnold who have all played for New Zealand … I have seen them come from being so small to where they are now, playing at a top level. Ashlee’s work ethic is insane, through the roof, and she’s a year younger than me.
“What George Glover did [the Black Dog Swim] is also inspirational.”
While the leap from junior ranks to senior level is traditionally vast, if attitude and hard work can bridge the gap, Phoebe looks set to land firmly on her feet in 2020.