Are Joseph and Nathan breaking up?
If Olympic Games double sculls rowing champions Joseph Sullivan and Nathan Cohen have their way, they'll row in a different boat this year.
Coming off extended breaks after their London Olympics triumph, the duo showed their class at the BankLink New Zealand championships at Lake Ruataniwha last week with more gold medal-winning performances, despite having only resumed hard training in recent weeks.
Cohen took out arguably the race of the regatta by winning the single sculls, while Sullivan teamed with fellow Marlburian Robbie Manson to retain their double sculls crown under the Central Region Performance Centre banner.
Speaking soon after his brilliant come-from-behind win in the singles where he mowed down Manson and Michael Arms virtually over the last 10 metres, Cohen suggested change may be in the wind.
"That was a tough race, absolutely tough. I was under done, probably not the fitness I would like at this time of the year so I was sticking to my pace and you always hope you've got that top end nerve, but I didn't know if it was going to come off."
Cohen admitted that motivation had been tough having achieved the Everest in his sport, an Olympic gold medal.
"Yeah [it was difficult]. I feel great for having a break. If I didn't take that few months break from the sport, I probably would have struggled to commit for another four years. It's a 3 -year plan coming back [to the Rio Olympics], not a three-week plan."
Cohen took a relaxed attitude into the nationals, his main goal to be competitive. To come out with a win was a bonus.
Just which boat he will be in is up to the selectors after next week's trials and they haven't got long to decide because the first World Cup regatta of the season is next month in Sydney.
"All I can do is put my hand up and say, ‘hey, I want to be in this squad in some sort of capacity'. It's up to me to put myself in a position that hopefully they select me. There is great depth coming through. It's hard to make the squad, let alone the team.
"I'll be happy to be in any boat, but I wouldn't mind a change at least for the next few months, but that's not my decision."
Cohen said he had always had an interest in the quad. "That would be something new to me. It would be nice to keep things fresh. That might not be the boat I end up in at the Olympics, but it's a matter of getting up to speed and getting back up to international standard."
Likewise Sullivan, who recently completed the Coast to Coast multisport race, initially struggled for motivation coming back to training.
"I definitely needed the break. We wanted to have that time off for the mental break and get back into it a bit more refreshed and wanting to do it all over again."
Twizel was the perfect catalyst for an injection of enthusiasm, the Picton ace agreed. It's a venue he's won many titles at, including three Maadi Cup national secondary schools golds in the space of 45 minutes on one occasion.
"It's been awesome down in Twizel. It's a place I've always enjoyed and managing to pull a win out was pretty good and good for the mental health as well. It is quite good that even though we have not been training in full, we have got that speed when we need it.
"It wasn't so easy or so graceful but it's definitely encouraging knowing that you can pull it out and with a bit more training we will become better and a lot stronger."
Like Cohen, Sullivan said he would also enjoy a change of boat. "Ideally I'd love to be in any boat I could get in but if I did have my preference, I'd probably push for the quad this year. Just a change from the double.
"Hopefully I can slip into that quad with Nathan, Robbie and Michael [Arms]. That would be awesome, but at the end of the day I'll be happy in any boat."
Manson, from the Wairau Rowing Club, impressed everyone at Lake Ruataniwha with an outstanding effort in the single but the man himself, who rowed in the quad at the Olympics, doesn't see his international future in the single scull.
"Definitely not the single scull. I'd like to be in the double or quad. I don't think I'm big enough to be a competitive single sculler at Mahe Drysdale's level . . . We'll see what the selectors decide."
- The Marlborough Express