Medals galore for Marlborough rowers
The Marlborough trio at the world under-23 rowing championships in Linz, Austria will return to New Zealand with a full set of medals.
Tom Murray, from the Blenheim Rowing Club, was part of the New Zealand eight that claimed gold in the final event of the regatta yesterday. Karl Manson, also from the Blenheim club, picked up a silver medal with the quad while Sophie MacKenzie, rowing out of the Wairau club, earned a bronze medal in the lightweight double.
Murray's eight earned a direct route to the decider with a comprehensive victory in their heat on Thursday and they produced another compelling effort to leave their rivals behind in the final.
The men's eight is the blue riband event of any regatta and the Kiwi boat's victory capped an excellent world championships for New Zealand. The Spanish eight burst out of the starting blocks to lead early on, rating over 50 strokes per minute, but couldn't hold the pace.
New Zealand got their bow in front of Poland through the halfway point and soon took control of the race, leaving the crews from the United States and Poland to battle for second and third.
New Zealand won gold in 5:28.63, the US took silver in 5:31.79 and Poland grabbed bronze in 5:33.16.
Last year Murray became the first rower in the Blenheim club's 128-year history to win a title while rowing out of the club when he picked up gold in the New Zealand four at the world junior champs (under-19) in Bulgaria. His move to the eight for the under 23 champs made no difference to the outcome, a huge boost for New Zealand rowing who are hoping to again produce a big boat crew capable of taking on the world in Rio, 2016.
His mother Lynn Murray, who was with her husband Dave on the water's edge in Linz cheering their son on, said it was a great day to be a Kiwi.
"[The race] was a bit stressful but it looked like the boys had it under control," she said. "They raced to a plan.
"Once they got in front they basically stayed there. The USA were coming home strongly but New Zealand held on and took it out.
"I'm absolutely proud of Tom, but he didn't do it alone. The eight did fantastically well, the coaches, here and at home deserve heaps of praise.
"We've had people from other countries come up after the race and congratulate us, amazed at how such a small country can produce an eight that rows like that.
"It's a great feeling," she added. "They looked awesome."
Manson's quadruple sculls crew made a slow start in their final, trailing the field at the 500m mark, but showed great determination and patience to rattle home for second, just 0.60sec behind the winners. Fourth at the halfway stage, second at the 1500, it turned into something of a two boat race, the Kiwis just failing to peg back the Swiss crew who led all the way.
MacKenzie's bronze medal, with Southlander Lisa Owen, was her second at under-23 world championship level after she and Marlborough's Georgia Hammond finished third at the worlds in Lithuania last year. MacKenzie and Owen started slowly but held their poise throughout.
The New Zealand crew were sixth at the 500m mark but fought hard to pull the others in. They pushed to fourth at the halfway mark, and up to third at 1500m. The last 500m became a game of cat and mouse with the crew from Romania, as both crews chased a spot on the podium.
But the Kiwis edged the Romanians home for the bronze in 7:10.07, with Great Britain picking up gold in 7:08.57 and Germany the silver in 7:09.71.
The finals were raced in sweltering conditions, the mercury pushing past 35 degrees Celsius, resulting in the races being scheduled earlier in the day to avoid the worst of the heat. All of New Zealand's seven crews were in A finals and came away with five medals in total - one gold, two silver and two bronze.
The under-23 crews: Women's Lightweight Double Scull: Sophie MacKenzie (Central RPC, Wairau RC), Lisa Owen (Southern RPC, Waihopai RC). Coach: Dave Hill. Men's Quad: Karl Manson (Central RPC, Blenheim RC), Jeff Francis (Waikato RPC, Rotorua RC), Giacomo Thomas (Auckland RPC, Hawkes Bay RD), Chris Morrison (Waikato RPC, Cambridge RC).
Coach: Mike Rodger.
Men's Eight: Stephen Jones (Auckland RPC, West End RC), Brook Robertson (Central RPC, Nelson RC), Alex Kennedy (Waikato RPC, Te Awamutu RC), Joe Wright (Central RPC, Wellington RC), Finn Howard (Auckland RPC, North Shore RC), Shaun Kirkham (Waikato RPC, Waikato RC), Isaac Grainger (Auckland RPC, Auckland RC), Tom Murray (Central RPC, Blenheim RC). Cox Caleb Shepherd (Waikato RPC, Waikato RC). Coach: Ian Wright.
The Marlborough Express