Small is now big - NZ rowing's winning formula

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 24/08/2014
Hamish Bond and Eric Murray
PETER DRURY/ Fairfax NZ

PICKED TO WIN: Hamish Bond and Eric Murray are hot favourites at the World Champs in the coxless pair.

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Small country, small boats. That's been the recipe for success for Rowing New Zealand to match it with the sport's superpowers in recent years, and the same fare is expected to bring another feast of medals in Amsterdam over the following week.

There will be 13 Kiwi boats contesting the 2014 world rowing championships that start tonight (NZ time), with the small boats again offering the country's best chance of glory.

Hamish Bond and Eric Murray are a virtual certainty of winning their fifth consecutive men's pair title. The attention on them this time will focus on their attempt at a rare double-gold haul, as they have teamed up with coxswain Caleb Shepherd to contest the coxed pair as well.

Single scullers Emma Twigg and Mahe Drysdale will start favourites in their events while the women's double sculls combination of Fiona Bourke and Zoe Stevenson - silver medalists last year - won the third and final World Cup regatta event in Lucerne, Switzerland, last month.

New Zealand's largest boat with the best prospect of success is the men's lightweight four. Last year, the crew of James Hunter, James Lassche, Peter Taylor and Curtis Rapley were pipped by Denmark but have gained some revenge with wins at the past two World Cup events this season.

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 World Cup lightweight single events in France and Switzerland before being joined by under-23 star MacKenzie for Amsterdam.

At last year's world champs in Chungju, NZ won five medals - 1 gold, 3 silver and a bronze. At the 2012 London Olympics, the Kiwis won 3 gold and 2 bronze.

In Amsterdam, Bond and Murray will take a calculated risk in contesting two events - the extended programme possibly putting their world-record undefeated run in the coxless pair in jeopardy.

Not since the Great Britain duo of Matthew Pinsent and James Cracknell in 2001 has a combination won the coxless and coxed pairs titles at world championship level at the same regatta - but the all-conquering duo think they can pull off the feat. They say they wouldn't be racing if they didn't think they were capable of winning both.

Twigg is looking to cap off a tremendous year that has seen her win all three World Cup finals. The 27-year-old will take a break from rowing following the regatta and looks unlikely to feature next year, but another victory over Australia's Kim Crow and 2012 Olympic champ Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic would still mark her as a gold medal contender for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Drysdale rowed through arch-rival Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic in Lucerne and looks on track to win his sixth world title, while Bourke and Stevenson want revenge for an agonising defeat by 0.04 seconds by Lithuania last year.

The heat will remain on the women's pair of Rebecca Scown and Louise Trappitt after they were beaten by the u-23 duo of Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast in Lucerne, and while the GB pair of Helen Glover and Heather Stanning may be out of their reach, a medal is still a strong chance.

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Rowing NZ's selectors eventually fudged a decision on their quickest pair by putting Gowler and Prendergast in a newly-formed four with Kayla Pratt - who won bronze in the pair last year with Scown before being dropped - and Kelsey Bevan.

WORLD ROWING CHAMPIONSHIPS NZ CREWS

WOMEN Single scull: Emma Twigg, Lightweight double scull: Julia Edward, Sophie MacKenzie, Coxless pair: Rebecca Scown, Louise Trappitt, Double scull: Zoe Stevenson, Fiona Bourke, Coxless four: Kerri Gowler, Grace Prendergast, Kayla Pratt, Kelsey Bevan, Quad: Erin-Monique O'Brien, Lucy Spoors, Georgia Perry, Sarah Gray. MEN Single scull: Mahe Drysdale, Coxless pair: Hamish Bond, Eric Murray, Coxed pair: Bond, Murray, Caleb Shepherd (coxswain), Lightweight double scull: Alistair Bond, Adam Ling, Double scull: Robbie Manson, Karl Manson, Quad: Chris Harris, Nathan Flannery, John Storey, Jade Uru, Lightweight coxless four: Curtis Rapley, James Lassche, Peter Taylor, James Hunter.

- Sunday Star Times

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