I've always been battling: Sullivan
Joseph Sullivan is "gutted" to have been excluded from the New Zealand rowing squad announced yesterday to contest the opening World Cup regatta of the season in Sydney next month.
Despite having won six successive world titles, including three at elite level and an Olympic gold medal - plus another national title two weeks ago - the Picton powerhouse has been left out, Rowing New Zealand High Performance manager Alan Cotter citing a lack of fitness and trial form as the reasons for his omission.
Sullivan, who has battled against the odds throughout his career, was shocked, but not entirely surprised in hindsight.
"I'm gutted, very disappointed. I had a feeling it was going to be the case the way I was used in the trials. I didn't have the best erg test because my legs were still tired after the Coast to Coast [which Sullivan completed last month].
"I've been in this situation before and I can deal with it. Everyone else seems to be more angry than me about it. I've always been battling the odds. It seems more than anyone else.
"I'm just trying to clear my head about it at the moment," said Sullivan.
Cotter said he sat down with Sullivan and explained the situation. "I think the Coast to Coast took more out of him than what he thought. Just getting his legs right and he didn't have enough time to recover because he went straight into training with the Central RPC.
"He'll still be training with the squad and he'll be available come July when we have another trial going through to the World Champs.
"The team that has been named now is only for the World Cup in Sydney," explained Cotter.
There is bound to be shock and anger among Sullivan's supporters. At the recent Halberg awards he and rowing partner Nathan Cohen were voted to have provided the sporting highlight of the year with their sensational win for New Zealand in London.
But Cotter said Sullivan will most probably hop into boats if injuries occur. He said he was still very much in Rowing New Zealand's future plans and Cotter and the selectors were fully aware of how devastating Sullivan and Cohen were racing together.
"Once he gets back to fitness, Joe will be himself I'm sure. We want to see him back and he's certainly in the Rio [Olympics] plan that's for sure," said Cotter.
Despite the shock of Sullivan missing selection, there was good news for several other Marlborough-based rowers.
Wairau's Robbie Manson will row the double scull with Auckland's Michael Arms, taking over from Sullivan and Cohen, who moves to the quad. Wairau's three-time world champion Duncan Grant comes back into the lightweight single scull and there are several rowers from the Central Region Performance Centre, based at Wairau in the squad. Louise Ayling will row the lightweight single scull, Erin-Monique Shelton is in the quad, Rebecca Scown retains her place in the pair while Kerri Gowler, Robyn Munro and Linda Mathews are in the eight.
In the under-23 squad, which will contest the world champs in Austria, Wairau's Sophie Mackenzie rows the double with Southern RPC's Lisa Owen. Karl Manson from Blenheim Rowing Club is in the quad and in the eight are team-mate Tom Murray, Central RPC's Brook Robertson and Joe Wright.
- The Marlborough Express