MacKenzie steps up to elite world stage

Wairau and Central Rowing Performance Centre lightweight sculler Sophie MacKenzie has just stepped on to the main stage.

The 21-year old will row at the elite world championships in Amsterdam in the New Zealand women's lightweight double scull with Julia Edward after Lucy Strack, Edward's former crew member, decided to pull out of the 2014 international season after struggling with her form.

MacKenzie has been training over the winter at Lake Karapiro to contest the world under-23 champs, staged in Italy from July 23-27, in the lightweight double with Zoe McBride. She will still do so, then join up with Edward to prepare for the elite world champs on August 24-31.

This will be her third shot at the under-23 worlds, winning a bronze medal with Georgia Hammond in 2012 and again with Lisa Owen last year, but she has never represented New Zealand at elite level.

MacKenzie, who got the good news earlier in the week, said she was "pretty rapt" she had got the call-up. "[Rowing at the senior world champs] has been my goal for so long, it's really cool."

She has rowed with Edward before, in training and at a summer regatta, and said that "whenever we get in a boat together it seems to go along nicely".

Things are also progressing well for MacKenzie and McBride. "We've had such a good build-up to this [under-23] campaign so far," said MacKenzie. "We've been getting some pretty good times, which is exciting, but we'll see how we go overseas, I guess."

Competing at two world champs means she will be out of the country for nearly two months, but she's ready for the two-pronged challenge. "There's nerves and excitement, but I'm looking forward to it all . . . it's going to be one big journey, with big opportunities."

Edward, who won gold in the lightweight single scull at the second World Cup regatta in France, will row in the single at the final meet in Lucerne from July 11-13.

Rowing New Zealand has made some additions to crew entries for Lucerne. New Zealand has entered 13 crews to compete in the following events over the three-day regatta - women's single scull, women's lightweight single scull, women's pair, women's double scull, women's quad, men's single scull, men's pair, men's double scull, men's lightweight double, men's lightweight four, men's quad and men's eight.

There will be two New Zealand women's coxless pairs competing at Lucerne with one being the elite pair of Rebecca Scown and Louise Trappitt, and the second crew will be under-23 women's pair representatives Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast.

The under-23 men's eight, including Blenheim's Tom Murray, will also gain some more elite experience after competing at the first World Cup regatta in Sydney earlier this year. The tough elite competition should have prepared them well in the aim of defending their under-23 world title.

Alan Cotter, Rowing New Zealand's high performance manager, says: "We believe this international elite racing will give the under-23 rowers some fantastic experience heading into the under-23 world championship regatta. Our focus is certainly shifting ahead to Rio and potentially some of these young rowers might be competing at the elite level next year in the hope to qualify boats for the 2016 Olympics."

New Zealand is currently sitting second on the World Cup series standings with 81 points, behind Australia with 91 points.

The Marlborough Express