Rowers from Marlborough secondary schools warmed up for the forthcoming Maadi Cup with a string of promising performances at the South Island schools champs raced on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Eight medals were claimed by crews from Marlborough Boys’ and Girls’ College, plus Queen Charlotte College.
The MBC boys under-16 coxed quad took out their event, the crew comprising Sam Feltham, Ashley-James Fitzgerald, Rhys Salvador, Dylan Burton and coxswain Oliver Price. Also striking gold was the MGC under-17 pair of Meg Flanagan and Liv Theodore, plus their schoolmates, the under-18 novice coxed four of Daisy Vavasour, Lexi Timpson, Emma Flanagan, Molly Glover and cox Lara Bacchus.
The MBC under-15 coxed four of Shane Henry, Zac Jenkins, Hugh Straker, Lochlan Gilmour and cox Joe Judge took silver, as did the MGC under-16 coxed four of Georgia MacDonald, Holly Feltham, Maggie Lane, Paige Materoa and Bacchus. Also claiming a silver medal was the QCC under-17 girls pair of Charlotte Lightfoot and Jamie Cunningham.
William Dunkley from QCC bagged bronze in the under-16 single, while Feltham, Fitzgerald, Salvador, Burton and Price also placed third in the under-16 coxed four.
MGC rowers were also close to the podium on two more occasions, their under-17 coxed four and under-18 double finishing fourth in A finals, a feat shared by MBC sculler Fred Vavasour.
As personal statements go, Robbie Manson’s performances at the recent New Zealand Rowing Champs were concise and very much to the point.
The 30-year-old, who rowed in Wairau club colours at Lake Karapiro, won the premier single and double sculls titles, both in emphatic fashion.
In the single he came up against former double Olympic champion Mahe Drysdale, who has been vying with Robbie for the seat in the Kiwi single for the past two years, and left him trailing in his wake.
In the double he paired with Chris Harris, who he rowed with at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and prevailed comfortably.
As an opening gambit to a year where he has made a bold change, his efforts could not be faulted.
This international season Robbie has decided to forgo the single, in which he set the world’s fastest time in 2017 but was unable to medal at the following three world championships, to team up once more with Chris in the double. They have been named in the NZ elite team to contest forthcoming World Cups II and III in Europe, with Mahe selected in the single at this stage.
However, the Tokyo Olympics are everyone’s primary objective in 2020 and Robbie feels he is tracking nicely for the Games, especially after underlining his early-season form so comprehensively at Karapiro.
“It went really well. It was always the plan to do both the single and the double [at the nationals].
“On a personal level I wanted to go out there and show everyone that I am still the fastest single sculler in New Zealand,” said the man who last season qualified the single for the next Olympics.
“To trial for the double this year was my choice and I definitely feel as though I have made the right choice … it was nice to go out there and prove myself in the single one more time.
“I haven’t been beaten domestically in the single for four years now and I haven’t been beaten in a sculling race at the nationals for four years either, so I just wanted to keep those kind of records going and I guess, for me, it’s potentially the last time I will get the opportunity to race Mahe, so I just wanted to nail it really.
“The single went much better than I expected because I haven’t spent a lot of time in it over the past couple of months … and the double went really well, we were both really pleased with that.”
If their selection is confirmed, Tokyo will be the third Olympic regatta for both Robbie and Chris, who finished 11th in Rio. Robbie finished seventh in the quad at the 2012 London Games, while Chris finished 11th in the four. The duo picked up a bronze medal in the double at the world champs in 2015.
Robbie stresses that his decision to move from the single was not taken lightly, with the added enjoyment of being part of a crew boat a major factor.
“After spending three years rowing on my own it is nice and refreshing to be in a crew boat with someone else.”
And he is relishing his renewed partnership with Chris.
“We are working really well together. I feel like we are both fitter and stronger and rowing technically better than we were in 2015 and 2016.
“We are a natural combination physically – we both did two second PBs on our 2km erg back at trials in January and we did exactly the same time, to 0.1 of a second. We are very evenly-matched in terms of power.
“We also have a little bit of unfinished business, because we were a really fast crew right up until Rio … now I would say that we are faster and training at a much higher level, so that’s really exciting.”
However, looming over their international campaign is the potential disruption of scheduled events as coronavirus cases spread across the globe, with some media reports suggesting the 2020 Games could be adversely affected.
However, Robbie said recent communication from the NZ Olympic Committee had informed potential team members not to worry and said they were talking to the Tokyo organising committee and everything at this stage was going ahead as planned.
“However the World Cup events, planned for Italy and Switzerland in May, could be more at risk but we are just training as normal and basically prepared for anything. I’m sure this year will have a lot of curve balls, but we are just ready to take what’s thrown at us,” he added.
Marlborough-based crews returned from the New Zealand Rowing Championships at Lake Karapiro last week with 17 medals.
Rowers representing both Central Rowing Performance Centre and the Wairau Rowing Club, both based on the Wairau River, went stroke-for-stroke with the country’s best and came away with a decent haul of precious metal.
Showing the way was international sculler Robbie Manson who claimed both the premier single and double titles.
In the single, raced on Saturday, Manson prevailed in a comfortable 7:16.97 while Waikato RPC’s Jordan Parry took silver in 7:21.53 and Mahe Drysdale claimed bronze in 7:24.93.
Earlier this year Manson indicated his intention to target the men’s double for the 2020 international season, and was recently selected into the boat alongside Chris Harris for the World Rowing Cup II and III.
Parry is vying for selection into a men’s quad to contest the Final Olympic Qualification regatta, while Drysdale has been selected as the New Zealand men’s single for World Rowing Cup II and III.
In the double, contested on Friday, Manson and Harris were comfortable winners, prevailing by over 11 seconds.
The women’s premier four of Jackie Gowler, Keri Gowler, Beth Ross, and Ella Greenslade also struck gold at Karapiro, beating out a strong Southern RPC crew by over six seconds.
The third fourth gold for Central went to under-20 single sculler Ricky Kiddle.
On Friday, the women’s premier pair of Kerri Gowler and Beth Ross had to settle for silver in one the most exciting races of the day, being beaten by fellow international rowers Emma Dyke and Grace Prendergast from the Southern RPC by a mere .05 of a second. Central’s Jackie Gowler and Ella Greenslade took bronze.
Tom Murray and Phillip Wilson also had to settle for second place in the premier pair, losing to the Southern RPC duo of rowing legend Hamish Bond and James Lassche by a second and a half.
International scullers Jackie Kiddle and Zoe McBride landed a bronze in the women’s premier double while Phoebe Trolove placed third in the under-20 single.
Central RPC head coach Marion Horwell was “really happy” with the performances of her charges, especially after an early setback.
Kobe Miller, a key member of the Central under-20 and under-22 programme, fell ill and was ruled out of the regatta.
“That was really disappointing,” said Horwell. “Kobe started getting ill just before we left and tests showed he had contacted glandular fever. He was an important member of our group and I am sure he would have been very competitive at the championships. However, the rest of the squad were very positive and just got on with it.”
Horwell said Ricky Kiddle’s gold medal in the under-20 single had lifted the small group’s spirits. “[Ricky] can be proud of that, it was a great result for him.”
She also praised the efforts of youngster Trolove, who has battled illness over the summer, and the work of Jamie Hindle-Daniels. “He didn’t medal but it was an outstanding effort [to place fifth in the under-22 single].”
He and Angus MacFarlane were named to trial for the NZ under-23 team in coming weeks.
Horwell was also highly impressed with Manson and the women’s four. “Robbie was just brilliant … he and Chris were outstanding in the double and he rowed a great singles race.”
The week’s highlight for the Wairau contingent came when the crew of Rhys Krappe, Sebastian Krappe, Harrison Somerville and Jordan Gasson combined superbly to take out the premier quad title, earning each a coveted red coat.
Then, on the final day, the Wairau quartet added a second gold, dead-heating with Waikato for first place in the senior quad final. Both Wairau and the Waikato quad of Karl Manson (stroke), Charlie Rogerson, Jack O’Leary and Josh Toa recorded a time of 6:31.05.
The Wairau coaches labelled the quad’s efforts as “a fantastic result”.
“We are so pleased for the boys,” said Kaye Surgenor, who was awarded a Green Coat in recognition of training a premier-winning crew at the NZ Champs.
Brothers Sebastian (23) and Rhys (19) Krappe, who hail from San Francisco and are training under Surgenor at Wairau, underlined their potential with a clear victory in the men’s senior double and bronze in the premier double.
Deciding to take a gap year to focus on rowing in the double, the siblings travelled to New Zealand in September last year, training alongside the club and attending local regattas. They will soon return to the US to target Olympic qualification in April.
Surgenor is delighted to have the newcomers at Wairau. “These boys have proved the worth of a NZ rowing season and will surely feature in the US Olympic trials in this event, upon their return to the States – I am very pleased for them.”
Somerville added to the medal tally with bronze in the hotly contested men’s senior single, being beaten by Karl Manson, and Jack O’Leary both previously with the Central RPC.
Elliot Rose attained a hard-earned bronze in the final of the club single with coach Mark James commenting, “That was a wonderful result, well deserved for this young emerging talent who moved to Marlborough from the Porirua RC and worked locally to support himself to train here”.
Dylan Crick and Will Samson, from the Nelson RC, who trained under Surgenor at Wairau also stood out, medalling in both the pair (silver) and double sculls (bronze).
“The rowed out of their skins,” added Surgenor.
ROLL OF HONOUR
Men’s premier double (Chris Harris, Robbie Manson)
Men’s premier single (Robbie Manson)
Women’s premier four (Jackie Gowler, Keri Gowler, Beth Ross, Ella Greenslade)
Men’s under-20 single (Ricky Kiddle)
Women’s premier pair (Kerri Gowler, Beth Ross)
Men’s premier pair (Tom Murray, Phillip Wilson)
Women’s premier double (Jackie Kiddle, Zoe McBride)
Women’s premier pair (Jackie Gowler, Ella Greenslade)
Women’s under-20 single (Phoebe Trolove)
Men’s premier quad (Jordan Gasson, Rhys Krappe, Sebastian Krappe, Harrison Somerville)
Marlborough based rowers claimed a string of podium placings, including four golds, at the South Island championships staged at Lake Ruataniwha last weekend.
Gold medals went to Central RPC’s Tristan Gregory-Hunt, in the men’s premier single, the Wairau women’s club quad of Macey Kappely, Eva Lloyd, Polly Wenlock and Jaimee Bridger, the Wairau women’s intermediate quad comprising Meg Flanagan, Liv Theodore, Maggie Lane, Kelsey Daldorf plus cox Lara Bacchus and the Blenheim men’s intermediate double of Logan Macdonald and Fred Vavasour.
Seven crews claimed silver medals, including the Wairau girls under-17 eight (Flanagan, Daldorf, Lane, Georgia Macdonald, Lily Crawford, Theodore, Cleo Ingram, Paige Materoa and cox Bacchus.
Other silver medallists were the Wairau men’s senior pair of Jack Castle and Will Johnston, the Wairau women’s club pair of Maddi Robinson and Bridger, the Wairau men’s club quad comprising Will Dunkley, Elliot Rose, Lachlan Stevens and Will Samson, Wairau’s Flanagan in the intermediate single, the Wairau premier men’s quad of Harrison Somerville, Sebastian and Rhys Krappe plus Jordan Gasson, as well as the Wairau girls under-16 coxed four of Holly Feltham, Macdonald, Lane, Materoa and Bacchus.
There were also eight crews who managed to bag bronze medals.
They included Central RPC sculler Kobe Miller in the men’s premier single, Wairau‘s Niamh Monk in the women’s senior single, the Blenheim boys under-17 coxed four of Dylan Burton, Rhys Salvador, Sam Feltham, Ashley-James Fitzgerald and cox Oliver Price, the Wairau under-19 women’s coxed quad, comprising Robinson, Olive Smith, Holly Blake, Grace Waring-Jones and cox Maani Gasson, the Central RPC men’s premier double of Miller and Jamie Hindle-Daniels, the Picton intermediate men’s double of Matthais Alexander and Dunkley, the RPC premier women’s double of Phoebe Trolove and Mia Uluilelata, plus the Wairau intermediate double of Blake and Waring-Jones.
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.
Marlborough’s rowing fraternity flexed their muscles on the Wairau River recently, relishing the chance to get in some early-season racing during the Marlborough championships.
Crews from local clubs Wairau, Blenheim, Picton and the Central RPC joined with visiting rowers from Canterbury, Nelson and Wellington for the annual event, a traditional season pipe-opener.
Of special note this year was the large number of crews decked out in the colours of the historic Picton club.
Under the guiding hand of former Picton stalwart Keirin Gaudin, with help from masters’ champion Cynthia de Joux, Picton had 23 athletes competing, 14 school-age rowers, plus four from Mana College who are competing under Picton’s banner this season.
This was the most rowers Picton had fielded at a single championships for over 30 years and they picked up plenty of meritorious results, including four seconds, five thirds and spots in several A finals.
“While we want to win every race, the biggest aim of the regatta was getting our novice rowers competing with our second year athletes, to help them get up to speed so they are competitive at the Maadi Cup in March. That’s the big focus for the season,” said Gaudin.
“The kids learnt a lot and enjoyed themselves so moving ahead things are looking good.”
The Marlborough Boys’ College contingent, rowing in Blenheim colours, also got plenty of encouragement from their weekend on the water.
Head coach John Robinson said, “the majority of our crews performed well, it was a really good start … last year’s novices have been working hard and have come into the new season strongly.”
Among the more impressive MBC crews were the four of Dylan Burton, Rhys Salvador, Sam Feltham and Levi McCauley-Bown who convincingly won both the intermediate quad and four, 17-year-old Logan MacDonald, who won the club single, and the highly-promising lightweight duo of Fred Vavasour and Nick Maltesen, who took out the club and intermediate double.
MBC fielded eight under-16 rowers, four under-17 and two under-18 athletes, plus a 12-strong novice contingent under the guidance of Matt Straker and Grant Morgan who also showed plenty of promise.
The MBC contingent has been working hard off the water as well, undertaking twice-weekly weight and endurance training since September.
Next up for the MBC lads is a four-day training camp at Lake Rotoiti before Christmas, leading into the Canterbury champs in January.
Several standout performances marked the efforts of the Marlborough Girls’ College contingent, competing in Wairau colours, who had what head coach Sean O’Neill described as “a really good regatta”.
One of their top efforts came from the novice eight who won on both days.
“Included in this crew were two girls who have only just started rowing in the last few weeks so it was great to see them slotting in with the other girls,” said O’Neill.
“Meg Flanagan had a really good regatta, coming away with a good win the intermediate single and then pairing up with Maggie Lane for a win in the intermediate double.”
The quad of Holly Blake, Olive Smith, Lily Crawford, Grace Waring-Jones and coxswain Lara Bacchus took out both the club and intermediate quad titles.
“Our under-17 eight had an impressive win over the Christchurch Girls’ High School eight on Saturday but the Christchurch girls turned the tables on Sunday. Our girls are looking forward to meeting them again in the new year to have another go at them,” O’Neill added.
Competition may have been tougher than many observers had seen before, but a group of Marlborough athletes still enjoyed plenty of success at the recent New Zealand Masters Rowing Championships.
Rowers associated with both the Blenheim and Picton Rowing Clubs came away from Lake Ruataniwha with a dazzling array of medals.
There were eight rowers in the Blenheim contingent, which picked up five golds, five silvers and three bronze medals.
The men’s G quad of Steve Mason, Fred Murray, Shane Rohloff and Willie Parker won a straight final as did the mixed G and J quad of Suzy Scorer, Murray, Parker and Annie McNicholl.
McNicholl teamed with Bronwyn Judge from Oamaru to claim gold in the women’s G double, while Sarah Lissaman and Cynthia de Joux picked up win in the final of the highly-competitive women’s C coxless pair. They were also part of composite eight, with Picton RC members, who took out the mixed eight title.
Lissaman and de Joux finished second in the women’s pair, to former Olympians Lynley Coventry (nee Hannen) and Nikki Haig (nee Payne). They were also runners-up in the women’s D double, this time behind another former international, Phillipa Baker-Hogan.
Lissaman and de Joux bagged a third silver in the C double, while Scorer and McNicholl were second in the F double and Scorer teamed with Trish Kamizona for silver in the E double.
McNicholl picked up bronze in the G single, as did de Joux and Lissaman in the A/B coxless pair, against much younger crews, while McNicholl and Parker were third in the g-J mixed double.
Club stalwart Mouse Taylor said he was proud of what the Marlborough rowers achieved, suggesting the level of competition was rising by the year.
“There were 350-plus rowers there, 500 crews on the water, and the regatta was one of the tougher ones I’ve been to.
“Masters rowing is huge now … there is so much talent out there, ex-Olympians and internationals. The racing is close and more exciting these days. It’s all getting more intense.”
He thanked sponsors Mayfield Motorworld and Meaters of Marlborough for their help in ensuring the Blenheim contingent were able to attend.
It was also a very successful weekend for the Picton contingent, comprising Melissa Cragg, James Ashley and the Gaudin brothers (Ryan, Keiran and Hayden). A fourth brother, Shae Gudin, took on the manager’s role, following surgery earlier in the month.
The small Picton team punched well above their weight, claiming 10 gold medals, three silvers and two bronze.
Spokesman Ryan Gaudin said the highlight was winning the mixed eight with the three Gaudins, Cragg, Lissaman, de Joux and Kamizone, the Gaudin’s 60-year-old aunt, on board.
Making their win even more special was that fact they defeated a much-younger Avon/Canterbury crew.
Cragg capped off a remarkable return after 16 years to win her second gold in the mixed quad.
Marlborough-based rowers bagged two medals at the world rowing championships which concluded on Sunday night [NZ time].
Tom Murray, from the Blenheim club, added a world championship silver medal to his growing collection in Linz, Austria on Saturday while Ella Greenslade, affiliated to the Wairau club, was part of the first-ever gold medal-winning NZ women’s eight.
Murray and his North Shore crewmate Michael Brake finished second in the men’s pair final in Linz, clearly the second best boat on the course behind the highly-decorated Sinkovic brothers from Croatia.
Murray and Brake made their traditional unspectacular start, slipping into second place by the 500m mark. They utilised a steady stroke rate to move clear of Australia and Italy who finished third and fourth respectively, but could make little headway on the Croats who prevailed by just over a boat length at the finish.
Murray said after the race, “that wasn’t really our game plan – Croatia raced their best, we did what we came here to do today but it wasn’t enough.”
In 2107 Murray, alongside Jamie Hunter, won the pairs bronze medal at the world champs in USA, while last year he and Brake finished fourth in Bulgaria.
Greenslade and the eight underlined the strong form they had shown in their heat to dominate the final, taking the lead after the 1500m mark and holding on.
Qualifying their respective boats for the forthcoming Tokyo Olympics was a dual purpose of the Kiwi rowers, with two other Marlborough athletes managing to do that despite not medalling.
On the final day of racing, single sculler Robbie Manson staged a remarkable last-to-first finish in the final 1000m of the B final, winning the race and qualifying the Kiwi boat for the Olympics. Manson finished second in his heat and quarterfinal races, but slipped to fourth position in his A/B semifinal, relegating him to the B final where he redeemed his earlier showing by claiming one of the three Tokyo qualifying spots available outside those boats in the A final.
The women’s quad, with Wairau’s Kirstyn Goodyer on board, finished fifth in the A final and also qualified their boat for Tokyo.
Harrison Somerville, from the Blenheim club, and Matt Dunham in the NZ lightweight men’s double, finished fifth in the B final, needing victory to qualify the boat class for the Tokyo Olympics.
Ian Seymour, from the Wairau club, was part of the NZ men’s four crew who came home second in the C final.
New Zealand won four golds and two silvers overall.
The lightweight women’s double of Jackie Kiddle and Zoe McBride were comfortable winners of their final, while the women’s pair of Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler prevailed in a much tighter finish. They were both part of the victorious Kiwi eight. The women’s double of Olivia Loe and Brooke Donoghue won gold on the final day, while single sculler Emma Twigg finished with silver.
Nine New Zealand boat classes have now qualified for Tokyo – the women’s eight, men’s single and men’s double, women’s single, women’s pair, women’s double, lightweight women’s double, women’s quad and men’s pair. Nine of New Zealand’s 16 crews made A finals.
Blenheim rower Kobe Miller took full advantage of his first outing in the black singlet of New Zealand, relishing his trip to the world junior championships in Japan earlier this month.
Not only did the strapping sculler excel on the water at the Tokyo-based course, he was also able to mix his first taste of international competition with a chance to experience the culture of the host nation.
Miller, 18, was part of the 14-strong New Zealand team, selected after week-long trials in April, who competed from August 7-11 on the Sea Forest Waterway Regatta course, venue for the 2020 Olympic regatta.
He teamed up with 16-year-old Christchurch Boys’ High School rower Scott Shackleton, a Maadi Cup stand-out this year, in the men’s double.
The duo made a patchy start to the regatta. After placing third in their heat they moved to the repechage, eyes firmly fixed on an overall top eight placing, at the minimum.
Unfortunately a technical issue left them trailing the field by some distance soon after the start. However, they didn’t panic, putting in a big move in the latter stages to get their bow ball across the line first and earn a spot in the A/B semifinals.
Again they made a rough start, and once more they recovered, but this time the effort had taken its toll against a class field. A fifth placing, behind eventual medallists Germany and Italy, meant the Kiwis narrowly missed a spot in the six-boat A final.
However, they made no mistake in the B final. Inspired by a good luck message from Marlborough sporting legend Joseph Sullivan, Miller and Shackleton went to an early lead, then hung on to beat a strong crew from the Netherlands and claim seventh position overall.
“Our goal before we went there was to finish top eight,” said Miller, “and while we were pretty disappointed to miss a place in the A final, especially since the other three New Zealand crews made the top six, we had to revise our focus, especially since the men’s double was the biggest class at the regatta with 24 entries.
“It was definitely nerve-wracking, but so enjoyable to cross the finish line first.”
Miller was hugely impressed with the course and relished his chance to sample it prior to the big show next year.
“It was the best course I have rowed on. The set-up was really nice, the facilities were amazing.”
Miller said there was always a bit of wind affecting the racing. “It would mostly be a tailwind, sometimes a small headwind … it was very rare to get a side wind though,” he added.
“One of the struggles at the Olympics will be the heat [between 34-38 degrees, with extreme humidity, when Miller was racing] but apart from that it will go really well. There are plenty of excellent viewing areas for spectators, with more stands to be built for the Olympics.”
The custom-made venue is situated in Tokyo Bay between two reclaimed islands. It has been specifically constructed in a former shipping channel to cater for an eight-lane, buoyed course with wind and wave protection along all sides. Miller said other features were a bridge going over the course at around the 600m mark, plus a succession of low-flying planes coming and going to and from Tokyo International Airport.
The Central Rowing Performance Centre member and a South Island representative last year was hugely impressed with the ever-helpful and polite attitude of his hosts in Tokyo, both at the rowing course and during his build-up time in Kyoto.
“We went to a shine and learned about the culture of Japan … we also did some meditation with a monk who had meditated for 17 years, they put a lot of time into finding peace within themselves.
“We also went up the tallest building in Japan, to the 42nd floor, and sampled the local cuisine. They are very good at treating visitors to their country well.”
The former MBC student, who won several South Island titles and two Maadi Cup medals, is taking a gap year now, working with his father in the Ezi-Mow business and has plans to study sport science at Otago University next year.
On the rowing front he has his sights firmly set on a making the NZ under-23 trials, then another shot at international rowing.
To that end he hopes to drop his 2km erg time under six minutes and work on both his sculling and sweep oar techniques, intent on keeping his future options open.
Given his progress in 2019, chances are that we will see the 195cm, 90kg youngster “back in black” next year.
Marlborough-based rowers will be primed and ready when the World Rowing Championships begin in Linz, Austria next week.
The champs run from August 25 until September 1 and provide the opportunity for international rowers to not only pick up world titles, but also to qualify their country’s crews for the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan.
Rowers allied to Marlborough clubs Wairau and Blenheim include single sculler Robbie Manson; Tom Murray, who races the men’s pair alongside Michael Brake; Harrison Somerville, in the men’s lightweight double with Matt Dunham; Ian Seymour, part of the men’s four; Ella Greenslade, a member of the women’s eight; and Kirstyn Goodger who will crew the women’s quad.
Also in contention to taste the action in Linz is Angus McFarlane, a late call-up to the men’s reserves for the world champs.
Wairau’s Sophie Mackenzie, previously selected in the women’s lightweight single scull for the 2019 season, will not compete due to injury.
Somerville is excited about the forthcoming challenge.
“Our build-up has been going really well,” he said. “We have been seeing a lot of promising speed.”
“Emotions for now are pretty calm. We still have some time to train so I am mainly trying to stay calm and focussed on being as well prepared as I can be for the regatta.”
Marion Horwell, from the Central Rowing Performance Centre, based in Marlborough, will coach the women’s four, while Mark Stallard, Central RPC head coach, takes care of the men’s quad.
The NZ team will comprise 53 athletes and 17 support staff, joining nearly 1200 athletes from 80 nations.