Campbell rowing his way to the top

Campbell Stevens
Campbell Stevens

Marlborough Boys' College rowers enjoyed plenty of success at last month's Maadi Cup regatta. Sam Patchett chatted with the youngster from Seddon who came home with a gold and a silver medal

For many young rowers, the annual Maadi Cup regatta represents the physical and mental peak of their rowing days. However, that's unlikely to be the case for impressive young Marlborough Boys' College oarsman Campbell Stevens.

The 15-year-old from Seddon returned from the massive regatta, which took place at Lake Ruataniwha two weeks ago, with two elusive medals. Campbell was stroke of the MBC U16 eight who won gold in Twizel, edging out rowing heavyweight Hamilton Boys' High School in an exciting final.

Although an unfortunate bout of illness affected the MBC U18 lightweight coxed four, severely weakening that crew's final charge, he and his crewmates were still good enough to take home the silver medal. While the bout of sickness the crew experienced was disappointing and distracting, Campbell believes the performances in Twizel were undoubtedly his best sporting achievement. And he put it down to doing the basics well. "I suppose the main things that contributed to our success were great coaching and a whole lot of hard work really."

He also recalled the "no-nonsense" mantra that prevailed with the MBC team as another reason they turned in such impressive results. "When we got there we were just all told to keep focused. Told to keep our eyes on the goal," he added.

Having the extra pressure of being in the stroke position for the MBC crews added to the challenge for Campbell in Twizel, which is especially impressive considering his relative young age amid the U18 crew. When asked if he got nervous before a regatta, he said the butterflies don't kick in until later.

"Leading up to things I wouldn't be so nervous, but when it comes to the start of a race I get pretty scared."

He surprised himself when the MBC crew won the U16 eights, and had to reluctantly follow through on a bet he made with team-mates earlier in the season. Campbell promised his mates that he would shave his legs if his crew struck gold in Twizel, and his father Justin explained how his son had a torrid time manicuring his legs.

"It took him a few hours to get them smooth - there was a fair bit of hair on those legs."

Campbell's results at the Maadi Cup certainly don't mark his first taste of success on the water, with the fifth-form student being part of victorious crews for both the Blenheim Rowing Club and MBC in a variety of regattas over the past two years, such as the South Island secondary school championships and Otago championships.

Visiting Campbell at his family farm, it is easy to understand why the young athlete has been on a steep rise to success in recent years. He took up rowing in April 2012, inspired by his father, a former rower who believed it would be a satisfying sport for his son to get involved in.

Now rowing is a major part of Campbell's life, with his demanding schedule as much a family affair as a personal commitment. His parents, Justin and mother Rebecca, recently travelled to Twizel as part of the MBC support crew, and have endured numerous 5am starts to commute their son from their farmhouse in Seddon to the banks of the Wairau River for his training sessions. Always keen to give something back, Campbell takes time out of his own rowing schedule to help his younger brother, who has recently taken up the sport, with his rowing training.

Campbell's recent successes have fuelled his aspirations to commit more time and energy into the sport, and he has fabricated a vision for his future endeavours. His immediate goals are to fulfil his potential as an age-grade rower and continue his impressive performances for MBC in the years to come. That starts with his upcoming opportunity to impress at the South Island U18 trials over Easter weekend, where Campbell will be among 23 other athletes, including fellow MBC rower Robson Davies.

However, it's the opportunity to continue MBC's success at future Maadi Cup regattas that is high on the agenda for Campbell, who explained, "MBC have never won the U18 eights, so it will be really good to be able to win that in the future."

His long-term goals include making the New Zealand Rowing Summer Squad, with an ultimate aim of representing New Zealand as a lightweight rower at the Olympic Games.

They are lofty goals, but it's the stoic attitude and steely competitiveness of the young achiever that make Campbell's aspirations achievable.

Whatever the future holds for him, he has youth on his side, so keep an eye out for the name Campbell Stevens in college and club rowing fixtures for many years to come.