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Fuel for the fire to get to Rio

Last updated 10:50 03/08/2012
Louise Trappitt
Iain McGregor

Unlucky break: Louise Trappitt, right, sits helplessly in the Kiwi quad, her broken oar ending the crew’s semifinal chances.

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Wairau rower Louise Trappitt was at the centre of one of the most dramatic incidents on the Olympic rowing course this week, her oar snapping during the quadruple sculls repechage as the Kiwi boat surged into contention. She writes for the Express from London, describing her Olympic journey and the moment her dreams were shattered.

"It's fair to say that our quad has been through a character-building journey this season.

It started off at trials where we were seat raced over and over again, right up until the team announcement, so we had no idea who was going to be named. When the original crew that had won bronze in the previous year's world championships was confirmed, all we could really do was hug each other and cry (which didn't bode well for photographs afterwards).

After confirmation we were off to London, we needed to settle into a good training routine and work on improving what had been some good boat speed over the summer.

Unfortunately, this was not to be. The very first training session we had a reserve in our boat, then it seemed we would have one-in, one-out as we battled with injuries. Nearing the time to leave for overseas we had two reserves (Zoe Stevenson and Gen Armstrong) in the boat as both Fi [Bourke] and Sarah [Gray] were out with quite serious injuries, and the call was made to race the second World Cup in Lucerne with the alternate combination.

We performed quite well after a dodgy first heat, finding our rhythm to nearly coming away with a bronze, USA just pipping us with the last 250m. After this regatta we were informed that we were going to be swapped round for the next few weeks - more seat racing to try to determine the fastest combination.

This was difficult, again our Olympic dreams were up in the air. It was hard to tell our families that they might need to get a refund on their tickets as no-one knew what the outcome of the seat racing would be.

After another emotionally exhausting two weeks, the outcome was the same combination.

Fi was back in the boat after five weeks of injury and finally we had our quad back together.

The Munich race was a huge reality check, as we were well off the pace. But we didn't lose faith and looked forward to a solid block of training with all of us fit and well.

Four weeks of training in Switzerland was difficult. We had lost our consistent rhythm of the past.

Occasionally we had flashes of the old boat speed and it felt great - but these were infrequent.

Arriving in London we still hadn't found our feet. Then, a few days before racing, our coach Dick Tonks told us rather sternly: "Just RELAX! You've done this thousands of times before, it's nothing new, don't try and do anything different". It was as if a magic switch had been flicked on in our heads; the next row was like a different boat!

Before the heat we were all nervous but our first race was good.

Although down on Ukraine and Australia, we managed to row through GB in the last 500m and came away with third. So, with a huge confidence boost, it was on to the repechage and THAT moment.

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I don't think any of us will forget the repechage in a hurry. We were confident and having an absolute flyer, coming in third and moving up to second when all I can say is we hit a speed wobble . . . I'm not sure what happened, maybe the boat suddenly lurched to one side or maybe we kicked up some water, but my blade was hit by something and thrust out of my hand. As I grabbed the blade at the catch it snapped in the water, rendering it useless.

In the next second or two my brain was flooded with options.

Scenario 1: Do I jump out of the boat? We had spent a considerable amount of time in a "trod" (quad with three rowers) and I had heard about people jumping out of eights when they break something but as I went through the logistics (undoing my blades at speed, and then managing to clear them from my crewmates' blades, followed by myself . . .) there is a reason I wasn't at the Olympics for diving.

Scenario 2: Do I just leave my blade there and keep rowing with one oar? I didn't know how this would pan out, perhaps tipping the whole boat which would have been even more embarrassing.

So my only option was to sit there, in shock and disbelief.

Of all the strokes I have taken in training, in all the races I have completed, something like this has never happened before - but it just takes one stroke.

It took a while for the realisation of what had just happened to sink in and then all I could think about were those girls in the boat with me. We had been through so much and our Olympic dream was slipping away.

I was absolutely devastated for them, they are all terrific athletes and deserve all the success that comes with training so hard.

The support we have been getting from home has been absolutely fantastic. I honestly don't know how we could have come through this without it.

At the rowing camp we have had people from all nations offering support, with stories of their own about how similar things have happened to them. I don't think this is something any of us will get over quickly but we will use it as fuel for the fire to get to Rio - we are still breathing, taking it one day at a time.

I would like to thank NZ for the huge amount of love and support being sent our way, it has been exceptional."

Louise and her crew contested the B final on Wednesday night, a narrow win some consolation for the quad's earlier misfortune.

- The Marlborough Express

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