Sullivan's mates get behind him

20:35, Jul 25 2012
Picton rowers
Golden days: The champion Picton Rowing Club quadruple scull crew from 2005. From left, Keiran Gaudin, Daniel Karena, James Ashley and Joseph Sullivan

If anyone can win a gold medal for New Zealand at the London Olympic Games, Joseph Sullivan can.

That's from two people who know the Picton sculler better than most, his former Queen Charlotte College and Picton Rowing Club crewmates Daniel Karena and Keiran Gaudin.

Sullivan and Nathan Cohen are the reigning double scull world champions and though the Kiwi duo have been tipped to win gold in London, they know nothing is ever a given.

Karena teamed with Sullivan to win a bronze medal in the double sculls at the 2005 world junior champs in Germany and reckons his mate, who was once told he was too small to be a good rower, has what it takes to win the biggest prize of all.

Rowing for QCC and Picton, Karena and Sullivan won nine and 11 Maadi Cup national secondary school titles respectively. Karena said he'll never forget Sullivan's performance in winning three successive Maadi Cup golds in the space of 45 minutes at Lake Ruataniwha in 2004. Despite their success, they were overlooked for national junior crews until a protest got them finally picked in 2005 and they went on to win the world championships bronze.

Karena is full of admiration for his friend. "Just the arrogance, sheer grit and determination. Even in training he'd always want to be better than you ... It was a competition every time you trained.

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"Sometimes he'd cheat. Dave (Bugler, the champion Picton and Queen Charlotte College coach) would say, right we are going to do so many strokes a minute on the Wairau. [Joseph] would take off just to get one boat length ahead and he'd make sure you'd never pass him. He had to be leading and that's how he trained."

As for his medal chances in London, Karena said, "I'm pretty confident he'll make the A final and do the business. He'll kill himself before he gives up."

Gaudin rowed in eight national championship-winning crews with Sullivan and agreed with Karena. "He'll be there or thereabouts - I have no doubts about that. He's a stubborn little p .... He's a hard bastard.

"He was always a good trainer. If we had a bit of down time, it was always, ‘oh should we go for a run or shall we do some weights'.

"He was good to row with. He was always working his butt off."

Sullivan's coach at Picton, Bugler, admitted he was a little concerned when his former charge missed out on the A final in the first World Cup regatta during the Olympic buildup but a silver medal in the next event eased the worries and he is confident Sullivan will row well in London.

"I'm still picking him to win. As long as they don't let the other boats get too far in front of them. They've got to be in touch right from the start. There's no-one faster at the end stages of the race."

Recalling coaching Sullivan, Bugler said, "He always did what you told him. He never backed away, no matter how hard I pushed him. He never gave in. Always determined."

Sullivan and Cohen's campaign kicks off on Saturday with the heats at 9.30pm (NZ time).

The Marlborough Express