Gold for Ayling and Edward
They've been the big improvers of the year, and the New Zealand lightweight women's double scull of Louise Ayling and Julia Edward have confirmed that with a stunning gold medal row at the Munich World Cup regatta.
Southland's Ayling and Rotorua's Edward produced a brilliant all-the-way scull to go one better than their silver medal effort in Lucerne and confirm themselves as definite medal contenders for London.
With the crack Chinese and American doubles both bypassing the regatta, the field was a little down on quality in the final pre-London hitout. But still the way the Kiwi duo maintained their lead throughout, producing an impressive rating nudging 38 through the middle stages, was a good sign for the Games.
The Danes had closed the margin right up by the 1500m mark, but the Kiwi double found enough in the tank to ease out to a victory that will have their rivals sitting up and paying attention. Ayling and Edward finished the race, into a testing breeze, in 7m 22.88s, with the Danes a second and a-half back.
It was a great regatta in the lightweight double for the Kiwi squad, with Southland's Storm Uru and Auckland's Peter Taylor also claiming gold in their race to underline their credentials for London. They looked to be in total command through the first three-quarters but had to hold out the fast-finishing French for a confidence-boosting win by 0.19s.
The other New Zealand gold - predictably - went to the seemingly unbeatable pair of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond who made short work of a quality field to continue their unbeaten run in international rowing since 2009. They have now won 15 straight major regattas and are unbackable favourites for the gold in London.
The Kiwis took the first 500m to find their rhythm, then upped their rating to the 37 mark and left the field behind. The fast-finishing Australians hauled in the French for second, but were still nearly five second behind the New Zealanders.
The other impressive performance from a Kiwi perspective was delivered by world champion double scullers Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan who got their Olympic campaign back on track after finishing a disappointing 10th in Lucerne.
Some hard work between regattas appeared to have paid off as Cohen and Sullivan put in a big final 500m to finish second, just over a second behind Norway's impressive combination. They had been last at the halfway mark, and their finishing charge will have eased some anxieties around their form.
Coach Calvin Ferguson was rapt with the response from his men. "There was no pressure on them going in. I said to them 'keep it simple, trust each other and race to your strengths'.
"They felt that there's a lot more speed still to come and felt good about the race."
The women's pair of Juliette Haigh and Rebecca Scown also added silver when they went one better than Lucerne. But they have a lot to do to haul in the crack British combination of Helen Glover and Heather Stanning who had the best part of four seconds up their sleeves at the finish.
There was a major surprise in the women's double scull final, with the second-string New Zealand combination of Genevieve Armstrong and Zoe Stevenson easily nudging a listless looking top duo of Fi Patterson and Anna Reymer out for fourth.
The women's quad scull finished a distant last in their final.
There was also an encouraging return to form for single sculler Emma Twigg. The Hawke's Bay product grabbed silver behind multiple world and Olympic champion Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus, and looked in much better shape as she sustained a solid race.
Meanwhile, men's single sculler Mahe Drysdale confirmed he hoped to be back on the water in a matter of days, after a cycle accident in Munich forced him to withdraw from the regatta,
"It's not going to be an ongoing issue," said the five-time world champion of his shoulder injury. "I expect to be back in the boat in the next few days and shouldn;t have lost too much."