Double scullers seek edge to conquer the world

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 03/06/2014
Fiona Bourke
PETER DRURY/Fairfax NZ

HEAVE-HO: New Zealand double sculls crew of Fiona Bourke, right, and Zoe Stevenson in training at Lake Karapiro.

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In theory, the New Zealand women's double sculls crew just need to improve by milliseconds to be world champions.

But Fiona Bourke is not a fan of that theory.

Bourke and crew-mate Zoe Stevenson head off later this month with the rest of the Kiwi team to contest two world cup regattas in France and Switzerland before competing at the world championships in Amsterdam in August.

At last year's worlds in South Korea, the Kiwi duo were beaten by 0.04 seconds by Lithuania's Donata Vistartaite and Milda Valciukaite - who had already beaten the Kiwis by half that margin at a previous world cup regatta in 2013.

Yet Bourke said they couldn't just single out the Lithuanians as the only crew they needed to beat.

That has proved correct already this season - hosts Australia won the opening world cup regatta in Sydney in March ahead of Lithuania, with the Kiwis staying at home.

Then the Poland duo of Magdalena Fularczyk and Natalia Madaj won gold ahead of Lithuania at the European championships in Belgrade at the weekend.

"Last year we were 4/100ths of a second off gold," Bourke said.

"But this year the aim is to take a lot more than that off. We're going to have to because there's a lot more competition in our field this year and everyone else is going to step up.

"We can't rely on just finding that extra small margin."

Bourke said she had been working on a few technical changes to increase the speed of the boat.

"I've been really concentrating on the finish of my stroke.I've had a bit of trouble with that over the last year, so I've been trying to iron out a few creases and sharpen that up, and just working together and bringing the best out of each other has been a big focus.

"Working in a small boat is a unique thing and we really need to synchronise what we're doing together."

Bourke, 25, and Stevenson, 22, are disparate personalities who don't spend much time together off the water - but Bourke said that did not hold them back.

"Zoe and I are quite different people compared to other crews, but we both have a common goal.

"Our goal is to win, to become world champions, and our long-term goal is we want to be Olympic champions. So we've got to put aside any differences that we've got and work together on the water.

"It's like a marriage; you've got to have a bit of give and take. We've both got our strengths and our weaknesses and you've got to blend them together to make a good unit."

Bourke said the duo was also being pushed by their fellow Rowing New Zealand team-mates.

"Compared to three or four years ago when they were scratching to make a quad, we've now got enough people to fill the double and the quad and still be competitive.

"There's a lot of talent coming through too at the under-23 level, so we've got to make ourselves better so we keep getting selected."

The New Zealand team will be based in Europe for almost three months, and Bourke admits they're all itching to leave their Lake Karapiro base for another summer.

"We've had terrible problems over the last month - I've just been counting down the days to go when I can swap my thermals and scarf for jandals and a singlet.

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"First, we had a whole lot of weed that came down the lake and was pretty disruptive for rowing for a good two to three weeks. When they got rid of that, the fog set in, so we've had a few days where we've been sitting here for a few hours waiting for it to clear.

"Then we've had the cold this week - I've never worn as many layers as this before."

- Waikato Times

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