Emma Twigg to miss Olympic qualifying year

GOING FOR GOLD: Single sculler Emma Twigg still has her eyes fixed on the 2016 Rio Olympics.
GOING FOR GOLD: Single sculler Emma Twigg still has her eyes fixed on the 2016 Rio Olympics.

One of New Zealand’s top 2016 Olympics gold-medal hopes looks set to have her fate in the hands of another athlete.

Women’s single sculler Emma Twigg, who has won all three World Cup titles this year, won’t be part of the Rowing New Zealand team next season – unles the national governing body has a change of heart.

Twigg has been accepted as part of the Fifa Master in Management, Law and Humanities of Sport programme, which will see her study in England, Italy and Switzerland from September to July 2015.

The 27-year-old said she intended to continue training while studying and would be available to row competitively once her studies were completed.

"At the moment Rowing NZ have said that because I'm not there over summer, I'm not part of the programme," Twigg said.

"So they won't be looking at me for selection."

Next year is a crucial for Rowing NZ, with qualification of boats for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. A top-nine placing at the world champs in Aiguebelette, France, from August 30-September 6 2015 is required to secure the women's single scull berth - or a top three spot at the European champs.

Without Twigg, that berth could be tough to achieve. The next likely option as a replacement would probably be Zoe Stevenson. But Rowing NZ may be reluctant to switch her from the double scull boat with Fiona Bourke that won silver at last year's world champs and gold at last week's World Cup regatta in Lucerne.

"I've told Rowing New Zealand I'm available from July next year, and the ball's in their court as to whether I'll be included in any team.

"I think at the moment the answer is no - but we'll see what happens," Twigg said.

"I definitely intend to be training, with Rio being my main goal."

She admitted that not being in the boat to qualify left some doubts.

"It kinda leaves it in the air a little bit. I guess Rowing New Zealand is reserving the right to have someone in that position who is part of the programme.

"But it doesn't change my focus in terms of Rio and how I intend on getting there. I guess it's just another hurdle that I'll cross.

"What I'm doing is what I feel I need to to do get me to Rio mentally and physically in the best possible way, and also prepare for a career after rowing.

"It's almost been an invigorating thing for me this year. It's given me another focus, rather than just be fully focused on rowing, and I'm excited about the challenges of combining my academics with training, meeting new people and having new challenges."

Twigg's form this year has been outstanding, capping it with a World Cup clean sweep in Lucerne that saw her again beat world champ Kim Crow of Australia.

"It was nice to race her again and see that what we'd been doing in the last couple of month has been working," Twigg said ahead of the world champs in Amsterdam next month.

"It's another confidence booster. I don't actually think I'm peaking, just yet, but we've certainly done some really good work.

"It's probably a change in mindset as well. I'm thoroughly enjoying what I'm doing and enjoying the guidance of [coach] Gary [Hay] and [performance physiologist] Dan Plews and the training programme they've set up."

Twigg headed to Bohinj, Slovenia, this week - along with a mini-Rowing NZ squad featuring the women's pair, lightweight women's double scull, women's double and Mahe Drysdale - in a good frame of mind.

"Winning a gold in Rio is still my ultimate goal," she said.

Waikato Times