Crack coach senses big medal haul
New Golden Edge Nelson Rowing Club coach John Robinson is pointing the finger at some talented local crews to make a genuine impact at Lake Ruataniwha this weekend.
Around 41 Nelson crews are competing at the Meridian South Island rowing championships and Robinson, regarded as one of the country's top elite coaches, likes what he's seeing among Nelson's current young crop of rowers.
He's only been in Nelson since November but has been coaching New Zealand's elite talent for some time now. Originally from Blenheim, he started working with national development rowers out of Wairau in 2001 before joining the elite programme fulltime in 2004.
He's New Zealand's second longest-serving elite coach behind Richard Tonks and has been a key figure in this country's greatest-ever rowing era, culminating in the record five-medal haul at the London Olympics, results that placed New Zealand second on the rowing world ladder behind Britain.
As well as numerous World Cup wins, Robinson's coached crews to three world championship titles, his first in Japan in 2005 with the men's pair of George Bridgewater and Nathan Twaddle. The other two were in 2010-11 with the women's pair of Juliette Haigh and Rebecca Scown.
At the London Olympics, Haigh and Scown overcame an injury-plagued build-up to win bronze. Then, with New Zealand's Olympic campaign over, he subsequently headed to China, spending 10 months with their elite rowers.
Robinson's stable of international charges also include Nathan Cohen, Mahe Drysdale, Fiona Paterson, Anna Reymer, James Lassche, Graham Oberlin-Brown and Duncan Grant. So, in other words, when he talks, you listen.
As much as possible, Nelson's rowers have been absorbing Robinson's world-class advice since his arrival and the results have been encouraging.
The Nelson club won the overall points title at last month's Marlborough championships and were also stacking up some impressive results at the the Otago championships a week later until strong winds forced the regatta's cancellation.
More recently, the Nelson senior women's four of Kirsty Thompson, Hannah Starnes, Anna Miles and Charlotte McIntyre recorded a comfortable win at last weekend's Cambridge Town Cup regatta on Lake Karapiro, with Starnes and Miles also combining for an equally convincing win in the pair. Thompson and McIntyre finished third in the double scull.
Robinson also fancies the chances of the under-19 men's quad of Sean Ducray, Olly Stephens, Sam Johnston and Joe Brady and the under-16 girls' double scull of Tessa Smith and Sasha Cullum. They'll also combine with Annie Grimes and Charlotte Anderson-McEwen in the under-16 quad. Hayley Wylde, Meg Stephens, Eilish Byrne, Anja Possegger and cox Claire McCrostie will complete a promising under-16 girls' eight crew.
Robinson said the club is using this regatta as a build up to the nationals at Lake Karapiro starting on February 18.
"So far we've been performing very well at each regatta," said Robinson.
"We won the points [title] over at the Marlborough champs and we performed very well at Otago ‘til it got blown out. So I think, in all grades . . . we're going to be very competitive. We've made a tremendous amount of A finals so I think, overall, the club can be very positive with what's happening.
"They're all improving and they are good to work with. They've all got good attitudes which is the main thing."