The Picton crew, from left, Kieran Gaudin, Ryan Gaudin, Hayden Gaudin, and James Ashley. Photo: Steve McArthur @Rowing Celebration.

Masters rowers claim medals galore

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.

Tom Murray, left, and Michael Brake picked up a silver medal in the hotly-contested men’s pair. Photo: Rowing NZ.

Rowers get among the medals

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.

Kobe Miller, left, and Scott Shackleton at the World Junior champs in Japan. Photo: Rowing NZ.

Miller enjoys taste of top-level rowing

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.

Kobe Miller, left, and Scott Shackleton at the World Junior champs in Japan. Photo: Rowing NZ.
Kobe Miller, left, and Scott Shackleton at the World Junior champs in Japan. Photo: Rowing NZ.

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.

Harrison Somerville, right, will contest the lightweight men’s double at the world champs. Photo: Rowing NZ.

Rowers ready to take on world

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.

Tom Murray, left, and Michael Brake on the victory podium after claiming silver in Poland. Photo: Rowing NZ.

Silver medal for Murray in Poland

Rowers from Marlborough clubs made a promising start to their European campaigns when the World Rowing Cup II was staged at Poznan, Poland over the weekend.

Tom Murray, from the Blenheim club, was the best of the bunch, picking up a silver medal in the men’s pair alongside Michael Brake.

The Kiwi pair won their A/B semi-final after qualifying with the fastest time in the men’s pair heats, and faced Italy, Great Britain, Serbia, Australia and Canada in their final.

Australia’s Alexander Hill and Joshua Booth led through the 500m mark with Brake and Murray comfortable in second. Although they pushed the Aussies all the way to the line the NZ pair were unable to close the gap and took silver, half a boat length back, in 6:39.49, just shy of Australia’s winning time of 6:38.23. Canada took bronze in 6:43.34.

“It was a good race for us,” said Murray.

“It has been a really useful regatta to gain some more information and to race new crews. We look forward to racing again in two weeks time. A head wind is no one’s favourite condition to race in, but the course is very fair for everyone.”

Murray’s Blenheim clubmate Harrison Somerville also put on a strong showing. He raced in the lightweight double final with Matthew Dunham

It became a battle for first place between Germany and Italy, with Australia, Canada, Denmark and New Zealand sitting behind the duo. In their first season together, Somerville and Dunham made an impressive debut, finishing fifth. Germany took gold, Italy took silver an Australia took bronze.

Robbie Manson contested the men’s single scull B final. Lined up against Italy, France, Poland, Lithuania and Azerbaijan, Manson took the lead after 1000m, crossing the line first ahead of Lithuania in second, and Poland in third. His time was 7.31.61. Manson, who trained to be at his peak for the World Cup events last season, admitted before he left NZ that his main focus this year is the world champs at the end of the season and he has tailored his training to that effect.

Wairau club rowers Kirstyn Goodger and Ella Greenslade were part of the NZ eight which finished fourth in the final. A nail-biting race, Australia took gold, from the fast-finishing USA crew. Great Britain came home third, just 1.38 seconds ahead of the Kiwis.

Overall New Zealand claimed four gold medals in Poznan. Emma Twigg in the women’s single scull, the double scull of Olivia Loe and Brooke Donoghue, the lightweight double scull of Jackie Kiddle and Zoe McBride plus the pair of Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler.

It was an impressive showing for New Zealand with nine crews racing in A finals and three contesting B finals, with both the women’s and men’s eight narrowly missing medals.

Robbie Manson has opted for a different build-up to the world champs this year. Photo: Rowing NZ.

Rowers leave for European campaign

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.

Michael Brake, left, and Tom Murray. Photo: Rowing NZ.
Michael Brake, left, and Tom Murray. Photo: Rowing NZ.

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.”