Sullivan, Cohen primed for glory

JOHN ALEXANDER
Last updated 14:12 27/07/2012

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Marlborough's world champion rower Joseph Sullivan is primed and ready to row the races of his life in London.

Sullivan, from the Picton Rowing Club, and his crewmate Nathan Cohen carry New Zealand's chances in the double scull at the Olympics and have been picked by the highly respected Sports Illustrated magazine as gold medal winners.

But Sullivan isn't interested in predictions. Speaking after arriving in London from Belgium on Wednesday morning (NZ time), he said they have prepared well and were feeling in good shape physically and mentally, trying not to be affected by the high expectations.

Both fiercely determined characters, Sullivan said he and Cohen were fully aware anyone could come out of the woodwork at an Olympics and win but felt they had done all they could to be at their best.

He said getting a good start and not letting the opposition get too far ahead was crucial as far as tactics were concerned and they would always back their trademark fast finish.

He has enjoying the fact that the hard grind training kilometres are over and now they are just doing fast pieces as they taper off leading into the regatta, plus relaxing as much as they can before competition starts.

Sullivan said facilities were excellent at the team's base at Royal Holloway University where the Olympic rowing village is and the rowing course was very good too, although exposed to the wind if it blows.

With crews from all countries out on the course training now, he said it was quite crowded and the water certainly chopped up.

Sullivan will have plenty of support from friends and family in London, including his parents Elaine and Mike and his girlfriend Holly.

Former Wairau coach John Robinson, now guiding the New Zealand lightweight women's double scullers Julia Edward and Louise Ayling and world champion heavyweight pair Juliette Haigh and Rebecca Scown, is also pleased with their preparation and the facilities.

Speaking from lakeside on the Olympic course on Tuesday, Robinson said the weather was brilliant and conditions were perfect.

"The crews are looking very good. Did some real good training blocks in Belgium and we are freshening up now and looking OK. Some of the hierarchy think that if everything goes to plan it will be our best Olympics. It's more about the top two inches now and the confidence to try and treat it as just another race."

Robinson said before the team left New Zealand that his lightweight double could be medal dark horses and their performances at World Cup regattas on the way to London backed that up as they broke the world record.

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"They are in contention. It's just about not letting the occasion get on top of them. I don't wind them up too much, just keep them on a good page and keeping it as low key as we can. They are physically as good as anyone."

His champion pair were well beaten by Great Britain at the last World Cup but things were on track, he said. "I think they've stepped up again which they had to. Never write those two off when the chips are down. They do not like losing. It will be a good contest and we can't let the opposition get away over that first 600 metres. That's where the British crew has been winning it."

Scown and Ayling are both members of the Central Region Performance Centre based at the Wairau Rowing Club in Blenheim.

Of Marlborough's other rowers from Wairau, Sean O'Neill is in the four which struggled to match the pace of the top crews in World Cup regattas this year but, as Robinson said, if they can make the A final, all bets are off.

The same, he said, applies to several other crews including the men's and women's quad which feature Wairau's Robbie Manson and Louise Trappitt. The double scull of Wairau's Fiona Paterson and Central RPC's Anna Reymer won a bronze medal at last year's world champs and are certainly medal chances despite not featuring on World Cup podiums this year.

Rowing New Zealand board chairman Ivan Sutherland is also impressed with the facilities in London.

Speaking from there last night, he said: "The team has settled in well and are keen to start racing. They are just cruising up and down the course getting used to it. The weather has certainly come right. Quite hot and a little humid."

Rowing New Zealand organised two day houses near the rowing course where rowers, coaches and officials can relax before and after competition.

Sutherland has taken with him the Marlborough Express banner signed by hundreds of supporters which he is delivering to the team at the rowing village today.

The rowing begins tomorrow at 8.30pm (NZ time) with the women's pairs heats featuring Haigh and Scown, followed by the women's quad then the double scull with Sullivan and Cohen due to start at 9.30pm. Robbie Manson is also in action in the quad along with the men's pairs and the men's and women's single sculls.

Repechages begin at 8.30pm on Sunday and continue from the same time on Monday which also features heats of the men's coxed fours with O'Neill and the women's double with Paterson aboard. The men's double scull semifinals are on Tuesday from 10.40pm and the final of that event is on Thursday at 8.50pm.

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- The Marlborough Express

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