One of the most important internal Olympic qualifying regattas in New Zealand gets under-way this week, as athletes attempt to stake an early claim for national seats. The first few days of the Bankstream New Zealand Rowing Championships are occupied by heats and repêchages, whilst the weekend will see the best rowers in the country race off in finals.
This year’s event sees 874 rowers representing 49 different organisations in 72 boat classes.
New Zealand Olympic hopefuls will be keen to catch selectors eyes, with official Rio trials in less than two weeks time.
“This is a huge year for Rowing New Zealand as the Olympic Games are the pinnacle of our sport. We have already qualified nine crews for Rio and are excited about their prospects,” said Rowing New Zealand High Performance Director Alan Cotter.
“This will be the largest New Zealand Olympic rowing team to date with the possibility of more crews qualifying at the final Olympic qualification regatta in May. The national championships provides selectors with a final opportunity to spot talented rowers for the elite and under-23 trials”.
The men’s premier single provided some early shocks, with world silver medallist Mahe Drysdale forced into second in his heat by a resurgent Robbie Manson. “I was able to shoot out of the start and by halfway I had quite a big lead,” explained Manson. “Mahe started to come back at me in the second half but I had enough to just hold on at the end. The conditions were tricky but that suited me. At the end of the day it’s only the heat and it doesn’t really count for much when it comes to the final on Saturday”.
Emma Twigg, who missed the 2015 racing season to pursue her studies in Switzerland, comfortably dispatched world champion Eve McFarlane. In the earlier heat, Sarah Grey managed to hold off defending champion Lucy Spoors.
World champion Adam Ling comfortably won his heat of the men’s premier lightweight single scull over Hayden Cohen. Zoe McBride won heat one of the women’s equivalent, whilst Julia Edward emerged victorious in the following race.
Emma Dyke and Grace Prendergast, the latter of whom was a double world silver medallist in 2015, won the women’s premier pair by a length. “We have never raced together before so it was interesting but we were focused on staying in our own boat and were conscious of working on the things we’ve been focusing on in training,” Prendergast told Row2k. “The pair is our main race that we’re targeting, being a small boat, so we’d like to put an emphasis on that but ideally we’re aiming to be in the middle of the podium for all our races”.
Olympic champion Hamish Bond teamed up with James Lassche of the Southern RPC to win heat one of the men’s premier pair.
The conclusion of the championships will see selectors name the athletes they wish to attend further elite and U23 trials.
A number of New Zealand crews will also be expected to attend the final Olympic qualifying regatta in Lucerne from the 22nd to the 25th of May.
Photo credit Rowing New Zealand