Rower Grant gets NZ selectors to see it his way

GETTING HIS OAR IN:  Duncan Grant making a strong case for selection at the national championships at Twizel last month.
GETTING HIS OAR IN: Duncan Grant making a strong case for selection at the national championships at Twizel last month.

Former world champion Duncan Grant is back in the Rowing New Zealand fold - and plans to stay there.

The world men's lightweight single sculls champion from 2007-09 was a controversial omission from Rowing NZ's summer squad training group named in October.

An upset Grant initially wanted to challenge the decision but decided he would fight his way back in on the water instead.

Grant headed home to Blenheim and trained with the Wairau Rowing Club and the Central Region Performance Centre.

He won the lightweight double sculls final at the national championships at Lake Ruataniwha last month with crew-mate James Hunter and was third in the lightweight single behind visiting German Jens Schoemann-Fink and London Olympic bronze medallist Peter Taylor.

Grant's summer was capped off by his selection in the lightweight single sculls boat this month for the New Zealand team to contest the opening World Cup regatta starting in Sydney on Friday.

It wasn't the ultimate result - Grant was seeking a place in either the lightweight four he has been a crew member of previously, or a new lightweight doubles combination - but he is happy to be given another shot at international level.

Grant, 33, sounded relaxed about how his summer had turned out ahead of flying out to Sydney with the team yesterday.

"At the time, at the beginning of the season, I would have preferred to have been named in the summer squad," Grant admitted.

"You're getting the benefit of training with the guys at the top level and Rowing New Zealand's performances have shown that.

"But I have been part of that programme for a number of years, so I can take that work ethic with me, which I did down to Blenheim.

"We had a good coaching staff down there, with a number of Rowing New Zealand coaches, so I could do pretty much everything I could do down there that I'd do with the summer squad."

Grant lost funding by not being part of the summer squad, so worked as a casual labourer part-time for friends in the winery industry in Marlborough.

"It made me enough to pay the bills to survive to the next rowing season and buy the next meal," Grant said.

"But my time down in Blenheim in summer definitely helped me get refreshed and hopefully helped some of the young guys I worked with down there too.

"It was quite refreshing to train somewhere else with a different bunch of guys. Obviously it's a very competitive environment within the summer squad, and that has its benefits and its disadvantages."

Grant missed out on selection for the men's lightweight four to Taylor, James Lassche, Curtis Rapley and Hunter, after hoping he and Hunter would get a chance at trials to pursue a spot in the vacant lightweight doubles boat.

However, Rowing NZ opted not to send a lightweight double to Sydney.

"There was the hope of being selected for the lightweight double, so it was a little surprising that that wasn't really looked at during the trial process," Grant said.

"Looking towards Rio 2016 and the selection of the Olympic class boats, I was hunting for a place in the lightweight four or the lightweight double. But the main goal was to get back into the team and obviously I know my way round a single very well.

"I've managed to come back into favour and they've given me an opportunity in the single again."

Grant admitted the three-day regatta in Sydney - the first World Cup regatta to be held in the southern hemisphere - wouldn't feature as many world-class rivals as expected at an elite international event, with it coming too early on the calendar for many European countries

"There's a lot of new names - I don't think I've raced any of the guys who I'll race this weekend," he said.

But his aim remains the same.

"There's still always one goal - to win and win well."

Waikato Times