Kiwi lightweight four out to usurp great Danes
The NZ men's lightweight rowing four are going for gold, writes IAN ANDERSON.
The New Zealand men's lightweight four wants to topple the pride of Denmark when it matters most.
The Kiwi crew of Curtis Rapley, James Lassche, Peter Taylor and James Hunter will be gunning for gold in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, when the World Rowing Championships start tomorrow night - one of a host of New Zealand boats expected to star at the regatta.
Runners-up behind Denmark at last year's world championships in South Korea, the New Zealand crew coached by Dave Thompson have gained the upper hand on their arch-rivals at the two European-based world cup regattas this year.
After the Danes forced the Kiwis into a repechage in the world cup event in Aiguebelette in France in June, the New Zealanders bounced back to beat Denmark in the final and then saw them off twice on their way to another gold in Lucerne last month.
Taylor, an Olympic bronze medallist in London in 2012, said the rivalry pushed both crews to new heights.
''The Danes took our scalp last year at the world champs, which wasn't the best feeling,'' Taylor said.
''They beat us again in Aiugebelette, which was like 'oh, crap!' But we managed to beat them three times running since, so it's a really cool duel that we've now got.
''They're a bunch of bloody good guys and we're good mates off the water who just want to beat the shit out of each other on the water.''
Taylor, the veteran in the young lightweight crew, said Denmark's lightweight four is their country's signature boat.
''It's their top crew - they draw a lot of pride and honour in that,'' he said.
''They put a lot of effort into making that boat go fast, so when you get on top of them, you feel pretty good.''
In the five weeks of training in Belgium since Lucerne, Taylor said the crew and coach had kept things simple.
''We don't want to over-complicate things - just get in some really good fitness training, some hard work; get the legs hurting, get the lungs burning.
''We're always trying to look at the details and the finer points and improve on that but, in general, we didn't want to change our whole stroke around or rhythm.
''We've got some pretty healthy speed.''
Taylor said the knowledge that the Danes - and a dangerous Great Britain crew - would also be working hard in training ahead of the week-long world champs activated as motivation to maintain standards.
''If you think you're working the hardest, then you're probably not. That's what gets you out of bed and drives you to work harder yourself.
''The competition within our team is also still pretty tough - we're racing and training against each other and that burns enough desire to work hard.
''We've just in been focused in our little camp here in Belgium on trying to beat each other up.''
The lightweight four pushes itself in training against the heavyweight men's quad of Chris Harris, Nathan Flannery, John Storey and Jade Uru and strong efforts to keep pace with that crew have Taylor and his boat-mates confident of a big showing in Amsterdam.
''We have a belief in what we're doing is right,'' Taylor said.
''We don't want to have to get to race day and think we have to pull something out to win. It's up to the other crews then to see if their performance is good enough to win.
''We just want to work on how fast we can be and that speed will determine if we come out on top.''
There will be 13 New Zealand crews competing at the regatta, with Rowing NZ setting a target of 10 A finals and five medals.
But it's likely they will exceed that medal haul, with single scullers Emma Twigg and Mahe Drysdale to start favourites in their events while Hamish Bond and Eric Murray again at prohibitive odds in the men's pair.
That duo will also team up with coxswain Caleb Shepherd in the coxed pair to chase a rare double gold.
Also, like the lightweight four, out to go one better than last year will be the women's double sculls combination of Fiona Bourke and Zoe Stevenson, while the duo of Julia Edward and rising star Sophie MacKenzie in the women's lightweight double scull will be an intriguing prospect after Edward won gold in the lightweight single in France and Switzerland.
HOW THEY LINE UP:
NZ crews for World Rowing Championships, Amsterdam:
Single scull: Emma Twigg. Coach - Gary Hay.
Lightweight double scull: Julia Edward, Sophie MacKenzie. Coach - Hay.
Coxless pair: Rebecca Scown, Louise Trappitt. Coach - Hay.
Double scull: Zoe Stevenson, Fiona Bourke. Coach - Dick Tonks.
Coxless four: Kerri Gowler, Grace Prendergast, Kayla Pratt, Kelsey Bevan. Coach - Marion Horwell.
Quad: Erin-Monique O'Brien, Lucy Spoors, Georgia Perry, Sarah Gray. Coach - Mike Rodger.
Single scull: Mahe Drysdale. Coach - Dick Tonks.
Coxless pair: Hamish Bond, Eric Murray. Coach - Noel Donaldson.
Coxed pair: Bond, Murray, Caleb Shepherd (coxswain). Coach - Donaldson.
Lightweight double scull: Alistair Bond, Adam Ling. Coach - Dave Thompson.
Double scull: Robbie Manson, Karl Manson. Coach - Calvin Ferguson.
Quad: Chris Harris, Nathan Flannery, John Storey, Jade Uru. Coach - Ferguson.
Lightweight coxless four: Curtis Rapley, James Lassche, Peter Taylor, James Hunter. Coach - Thompson.