Pressure goes on Kiwi rowing stars

It's still 10 months to the world championships but none of New Zealand's top rowers can afford to rest for a second.

The KR1 regatta over the weekend at Lake Karapiro – venue of the 2010 world champs – showed how competitive the country's top rowers are, with the singles sculls finals stacked with big names.

As expected, world champ Mahe Drysdale won the premier men's single sculls final and Emma Twigg did the same in the women's final. But the quality of the field and the desire for the New Zealand summer squad members to hear their names called out following trials in March have ensured tight racing early in the season.

"It's a highly competitive place around here," said world lightweight single sculls champs Duncan Grant at the Rowing New Zealand (RNZ) sheds yesterday after finishing fifth in the men's A final.

"We feed on it and it goes hand in hand with our results."

Drysdale, who has been undergoing intensive long mileage training sessions with coach Dick Tonks recently, was still in good enough race shape to head off Nathan Cohen by just over three seconds with Storm Uru winning the battle of the world-class lightweights in finishing third.

Uru's world champion lightweight double sculls partner Peter Taylor was next across the line yesterday, closely followed by Grant, Joseph Sullivan and Jade Uru with Cambridge lightweight Ben Norling (eighth) the only outsider from the national summer squad in the final.

"With only eight spots available in the final it's pretty intense," Grant said.

The heated competition meant summer squad members also featured in the B final, including winner Robbie Manson, Nathan Twaddle and Matthew Trott.

"Mahe's still knocking himself into shape," said RNZ high performance manager Alan Cotter.

"The world championship will be when he's on song."

Grant, who won his third lightweight single sculls world title in Poland in August, knows that his quest for a fourth success has only just begun.

"It's a long season, really two months extra with the timing of the world champs here.

"Now is basically October/November in a normal season with European regattas."

Grant has been training in Auckland recently while working for Banklink – RNZ's chief sponsor – as part of work experience while completing his degree at Waikato University.

And while the summer squad may be allowed a brief respite for Christmas, any extra helpings of turkey and pudding will soon get worked off.

"We get released on Tuesday so can get away home for Christmas but we'll join up with out RPCs (regional performance centres) over the Christmas/New Year period and then get back here with the New Zealand programme on January 7," Grant said.

Twigg was almost 15 seconds quicker than second-placed Fiona Paterson in her A final triumph, with Anna Reymer third ahead of Genevieve Armstrong, Odette Sceats, Lucy Spoors, Juliette Haigh and Waikato RPC's Sarah Gray.

Waikato Times