Bond, Murray likely to be excluded
The all-conquering men’s pair of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray aren’t likely to be named when Rowing New Zealand announces its first team of the year later this morning.
The expected absence of the London gold medalists will highlight the first look at Rowing NZ’s blueprint for the next four years when they name the squad to contest the opening World Cup regatta in Sydney later this month.
Bond and Murray, who capped a four-year unbeaten streak with gold at last years’ Olympic Games, have only been back in training for seven weeks and are short of their usual high standards.
It’s understood the Rowing NZ selection panel will therefore not put their record on the line in Sydney as part of the team for the March 22-24 event, which will mark the first time a World Cup regatta has been held in the Southern Hemisphere.
Instead, the pair will continue to train under the eye of new men’s sweep oar coach Noel Donaldson as they prepare for further World Cup regattas in Europe later this year.
There will be some familiar names in the team, but in unfamiliar boats.
It’s traditional in rowing for international teams to make a raft of changes post-Olympic Games year. Not only will the team be without stars like Mahe Drysdale (on sabbatical) and his partner Juliette Haigh (retired), but a number of Olympic medal winners from London 2012 are poised to race in new crews for at least the first of three World Cup regattas as lead-ins to this year’s world championships in South Korea.
Women’s single sculler Emma Twigg has spent time this season racing in the women’s pair with Rebecca Scown as Scown searches for a replacement crew member in the women’s pair after winning bronze in London with Haigh.
However, Twigg is still easily the country’s best woimen’s sculler and the RNZ selection panel may opt to keep her in that boat initially.
If the selectors opt to field a replacement for London gold medalist Drysdale in the men’s single sculls, they may go for another London winner, Joseph Sullivan.
He teamed up with Nathan Cohen to grab gold last year in the men’s double sculls, but Cohen has gone on record saying he wants to be part of the quad sculls crew for Sydney, which is likely to contain younger brother Hayden.
That could leave Sullivan, who returned to full-time training later this season than Cohen, in the single, with a track record of success in that category at world under-23 level.
The other option would be Michael Arms, who has been in sharp form this season and if not selected in the single is likely to form a powerful quad or double, with another in-form sculler Robbie Manson also an option for a number of boats.
Peter Taylor was another Olympic medallist but his bronze-medal winning partner in the men’s lightweight double sculls Storm Uru has headed to England to further his studies, so Taylor is poised to form a lightweight four with James Lassche, Curtis Rapley and Armin Svoboda Jr.
There will be plenty of interest in the women’s crews selected, with new women’s coach Dick Tonks looking at a four-year plan towards the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Tonks has a host of promising young rowers under his guidance, including Eve MacFarlane, Fiona Bourke, Sarah Gray, Zoe Stevenson, Kayla Pratt and Lucy Spoors.
The women’s lightweight ranks are also strong, with Louise Ayling, Lucy Strack, Julia Edward and Sophie Mackenzie all prominent during racing this season and in trials this week at Lake Karapiro.
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