New rowing crew aware of big task ahead

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 08/03/2013
Fiona Bourke and Zoe Stevenson
Bruce Mercer/Fairfax NZ
NEW CREW: Fiona Bourke, left, and Zoe Stevenson were named as the women’s double sculls crew for the World Cup regatta in Sydney

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There's not a lot similar about new crewmates Fiona Bourke and Zoe Stevenson.

Dark-haired Bourke, 24, has a couple of years of international experience at the top level and was part of the New Zealand team at last year's London Olympics.

Stevenson, a blonde 21-year-old, is a relative rookie at elite level.

But they both know the history of the women's double sculls boat they were yesterday named in as part of the New Zealand team to contest the World Cup regatta in Sydney later this month.

That's the boat that twins Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell won back-to-back Olympic golds in, in 2004 and 2008. "We're filling some pretty big shoes," Bourke admitted.

And while the expectations will be minimal to start with, the duo know they've been handed the perfect early opportunity to make an impression as Rowing NZ looks to building their team towards the 2016 Olympics at Rio de Janeiro.

"It's quite an exciting time coming off the success at London, there's a lot of buzz around the sport," Bourke said.

"It's good for us to be able to put our hands up now and say, ‘Look, we want to put a mark on the double.' It's a pretty big next six months for us to put our names forward."

The Sydney regatta, from March 22 till 24, is the first of three World Cup events leading into the world championships in South Korea from August 25 till September 1.

The double are one of a host of new crews named yesterday as the selection panel ponder their future options, after Anna Reymer and Fi Paterson took the boat to fifth place at last year's Olympics.

They impressed at trials at Lake Karapiro this week but neither rower was sure what their selection chances were.

"For me it wasn't really about choosing a boat, more about being put in the fastest boat; I just wanted to be in the fastest boat for sculling really," Bourke said.

"We went out in the double at the start and obviously the selectors saw something that they liked, so that's the avenue they've sent us down."

Now the duo, who have been training this summer with Dick Tonks in his new role as head of the women's programme, want to make their mark in Sydney.

"We might be a bit rusty, but we'll give it a good shot," Bourke said.

"You want to do well at the World Cups, but the big thing for us is learning from them so we can figure out where we're at, how our combination is going and what we can do better," Stevenson said.

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There were plenty of new names in the team named for Sydney, from which Olympic gold medallist Joseph Sullivan was omitted.

Sullivan, who triumphed in the men's double sculls in London last year with crewmate Hayden Cohen, was a late returnee to training this season and judged not to be fit enough for selection for the World Cup regattas, but should be back in the frame for the world champs.

Rowing NZ went without a men's single sculler with Mahe Drysdale not returning to action until mid-season, while fellow Olympic gold medallists Hamish Bond and Eric Murray won't contest the men's pair event in Sydney after only returning to training seven weeks ago.

Cohen was named as part of the men's quad, with Robbie Manson and Michael Arms in the double sculls boat.

Peter Taylor has shifted into the lightweight four, while Duncan Grant bounced back from not being named in the summer squad training group to be selected as the men's lightweight single sculler.

AT A GLANCE

New Zealand Rowing team to contest the World Cup regatta in Sydney: Women Lightweight Single Scull: Louise Ayling Lightweight Double Scull: Julia Edward, Lucy Strack. Double Scull: Fiona Bourke, Zoe Stevenson. Quad: Erin-Monique Shelton, Genevieve Armstrong, Georgia Perry, Sarah Gray. Eight: Kelsey Bevan, Genevieve Behrent, Eve Macfarlane, Jessica Loe, Kerri Gowler, Grace Prendergast, Robyn Munro, Linda Matthews, cox Laura Campbell. Men Lightweight Single Scull: Duncan Grant. Double Scull: Robbie Manson, Michael Arms. Coxless Four: Bobby Kells, Adam Tripp, Tobias Wehr-Candler, Jade Uru. Quad: Hayden Cohen, Nathan Flannery, Fergus Fauvel, Nathan Cohen. Lightweight Coxless Four: Curtis Rapley, Peter Taylor, James Hunter, James Lassche.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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