Triumphant Kiwi rowers hail coach Tonks

JONATHAN MILLMOW IN LONDON
Last updated 05:00 05/08/2012
Rowing New Zealand's head coach Dick Tonks
PETER DRURY/Fairfax NZ
SUPER COACH: Dick Tonks steered Rob Waddell to gold in 2000, the Evers-Swindell twins in 2004 and 2008 but perhaps his crowning glory was yesterday when the pair then Drysdale won gold within 45 minutes of each other.

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Three great rowers are hailing one great coach as the sport basks in its greatest hour.

The triumphant men's pair of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond as well as super sculler Mahe Drysdale paused among the backslapping at Lake Dorney to pay homage to rowing coach Dick Tonks, who has now coached an Olympic winner in four successive Games.

Tonks steered Rob Waddell to gold in 2000, the Evers-Swindell  twins in 2004 and 2008 but perhaps his crowning glory was yesterday when the pair then Drysdale won gold within 45 minutes of each other.

Murray described Tonks as a "humble guy", who pushed crews to their limit.

"He makes it quite clear that you do what he says, otherwise you bugger off,"  Murray said.

"We knew he was going to be the best coach for us because he was going to push us beyond what we were capable of doing.

"A lot of coaches have their own idiosyncrasies but his (philosophy) is good old fashioned hard grind. Some of the time we are just there sitting questioning our sanity, but in the end this is the result of that.

"Maybe if we had been with someone else it wouldn't have happened. We take our hat off to him.  He's done it with Rob, the twins, Mahe and now us.''

Bond said for every stroke they rowed in the final they had rowed 17,000 in training.

It was an incredible statistic and one no one doubted.

"His success in Olympics is unparalleled in New Zealand and it comes down to him pushing athletes harder than they know. There is very little sentiment and empathy," Bond said.

"We know, turning up on the start-line we are going to be the best prepared of anyone and having that belief is a massive tick in the right direction."

Tonks, 61, was born in Whanganui and was an Olympic silver medallist in the coxless four in Munich in 1972. He prefers to stay out of the limelight. One of his others crews in London  - the women's pair of Juliette Haigh and Rebecca Scown picked up bronze - and tomorrow Emma Twigg races in the singles sculls.

Drysdale credited Tonks for his success, which constitutes five world titles and a gold and bronze at the Olympics.

"I appreciate what he has done for me," Drysdale said.

"We have had our ups and downs over the years but over the last four years he has allowed me to do different (training) things with my body because I couldn't do what he required me to do."

Drysdale said Tonks had been at him over the last couple of days to make sure he got his race tactics right yesterday and in particular respected main rival Ondrej Synek.

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"He told me to get in front and hold him off, pretty typical Dick.

"Yesterday, he told me I was in for a helluva fight and I was aware of that.

"The other thing he said was when I went, make it decisive and hold something in the tank just in case he comes again at the end."

- Fairfax Media

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