Improved Sullivan, Cohen surge into second
Picton's Joseph Sullivan and his New Zealand double scull crew-mate Nathan Cohen can breath a lot easier after an impressive comeback and a silver medal last night at the World Cup regatta in Munich.
In their last international racing hit out before the London Olympics next month, the Kiwi duo were desperate to atone for a poor performance in the previous World Cup regatta at Lucerne in Switzerland where they failed to even make the A final.
However the current two-time World champions showed they are coming back to top form after illness blighted their Lucerne performances and their trade-mark withering finish almost got them home against the winning Norwegian crew.
Typically slow to start, Sullivan and Cohen were sixth at the 500m mark, but by 1500m had moved up to third and over the last 500 metres they were stroking at almost outboard motor speed, 43 strokes per minute as they homed in on the leaders, but the finish line arrived a couple of strokes too early.
It was a good final hitout for the New Zealand squad and a big confidence booster heading towards the big dance in London as they picked up three gold medals and three silver.
One of the most impressive winners was the women's lightweight double scull crew of Louise Ayling, from the Central Region Performance Centre based at Wairau and her crew-mate Julia Edward, coached by former Wairau coach John Robinson.
Despite rowing into a head wind, they burst out of the starting blocks, got their noses in front and stayed in front to the finish, a performance which they were both very pleased with.
Speaking to The Marlborough Express soon after the win, Ayling said, "To be honest, I've been thinking about the hard work we've been putting in over the last few years and it's really paying off.
It's a great feeling knowing that work is paying off. It's a relief it's paying off and it's incredibly exciting."
Unheralded before heading overseas for their first season of international competition as a crew, Robinson picked them as the dark horse crew before leaving New Zealand and now with a silver medal at Lucerne and gold at Munich, they are genuine gold medal contenders for London.
However, Ayling said they are certainly not getting carried away, even though she said London was an exciting prospect.
"The only pressure we feel is what we put on ourselves. We don't focus on our competitors too much. We can only control our boat and we go in knowing exactly what we can do. We do keep an eye on the field during our races and we can chuck in a move if we need to."
Robinson was naturally thrilled too and said, "They really stepped up again. They took a while to recover from their heat."
"That was rowed in very hot conditions. You've got to be up near the front in the start. This lightweight field is very tight. You can be last and not very far away from the winner."
Robinson's other crew, current double world champions Rebecca Scown, also from the Central RPC and Juliette Haigh went one better than Munich and won a silver medal, but were well beaten by an impressive Great Britain combination of Heather Stanning and Helen Glover.
Despite that result, Robinson is confident both his crews are on track.
"I think both crews can move on. They are nowhere near their best yet, but I guess every crew is like that."
On Sullivan and Cohen's huge comeback, Robinson was not surprised.
"I don't think you can ever write them off now. They were flying over that last 500m. A tremendous performance by them."
Marlborough's other rowers had mixed success. Anna Reymer from Central RPC and Wairau's Fiona Paterson have some homework to do after being beaten by their reserve crew of Genevieve Armstrong and Zoe Stevenson in the double scull final.
The Kiwis finished fifth and sixth respectively, Reymer and Paterson well below the form that took them to a bronze medal at last year's world championships.
The men's quad, which included Wairau's Robbie Manson, missed the A final and were eighth overall, while the men's coxed four including Wairau's Sean O'Neill were a disappointing 10th overall.
Wairau's Louise Trappitt was part of the women's quad which finished well off the pace in sixth place in the A final, but there is plenty of room for improvement as it is their first race weekend together in a long time because of injuries.
Hugely impressive once again was the men's pair of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray. They demolished the field and only illness, injury or gear breakage stands between them and Olympic gold.
Storm Uru and Peter Taylor led most of the way and held off a strong challenge from France to win the lightweight double scull gold by a bower surge and Emma Twigg improved on her Munich performance to finish second in the single scull behind 39-year-old double Olympic champion Ekaterina Karsten.
Single sculler Mahe Drysdale was forced to sit out the regatta after a cycle training accident last week in Munich but it is not expected to further affect his London buildup.
- The Marlborough Express