Medal haul primes rowers for London Olympics
New Zealand's small-boat flotilla showed they were primed for a medal haul at the London Olympics with a promising showing at the final World Cup regatta in Munich.
The Kiwi team collected six medals – three gold and three silver – to show a noted improvement on their displays at the previous regatta in Lucerne last month.
The unbeatable men's pair of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray, the lightweight men's double sculls combination of Peter Taylor and Storm Uru and rising stars Julia Edward and Louise Ayling in the women's double sculls all captured gold six weeks out from the Olympic Games.
However, it was the return to form of two-times defending world champion double scullers Joseph Sullivan and Nathan Cohen and women's single sculler Emma Twigg that would have provided a welcome boost in confidence.
Twigg finished well back in fifth place in the A final in Lucerne but bounced back to claim silver yesterday behind veteran Belarussian star Ekaterina Karsten to show she will be in the reckoning in London.
"It was improvement compared to Lucerne," Twigg said. "I felt very relaxed, which is good, but obviously there's still work which needs to be done. I was lacking a bit of power at the end."
Sullivan and Cohen were horribly off the pace in Lucerne, failing to make the A final, and they appeared to be struggling again early in their final in Munich.
However, the duo found their form in the latter half of the race and stormed home to grab silver, just half a boat length behind winners Norway.
"There was no pressure on them going in," coach Calvin Ferguson said.
"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 Kiwi lightweight crews will head into their last training stint in Europe before the Games bolstered by golds.
While defending Olympic and world champions Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter looked awful in finishing last, Taylor and Uru led all the way and held off a stern challenge from France to clinch the win.
"That was a very exciting race and we are pretty happy to be at the top, but there's still a lot of hard work to do," Taylor said.
"We just want to gain more speed."
Edward and Ayling continued their rapid rise after forming their partnership only this year.
They set a world best time in their heat in Lucerne before finishing second in the final and went one better this time to see off Denmark, in an event that didn't feature top crews from China and the United States.
"We are absolutely over the moon," Edward said. "We still have lots of training to do in Belgium but anything is possible when it comes to the Olympics."
The women's pair of Juliette Haigh and Rebecca Scown were second behind the Great Britain duo of Helen Glover and Heather Stanning, moving up one spot on their Lucerne finish, but the world champs in the past two years have their work cut out to close the gap on the host crew in London.
New Zealand's second-string combination of Genevieve Armstrong and Zoe Stevenson were a surprise package in the women's double sculls final, finishing just out of the medals and well ahead of the top crew of Fi Patterson and Anna Reymer.
World champion men's single sculler Mahe Drysdale didn't compete in Munich after being knocked off his bike during a training ride last week but his injured shoulder was healing quickly and he was expected to return to training this week.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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