Rowing has emerged as New Zealand's most reliable source of medals at an Olympic Games but there is at least one crew eyeing Rio 2016 that has practically been thrown in the deep end.
A women's eight is attempting to qualify for the Olympics for the first time - a process that starts at the scene of Rob Waddell's gold medal-winning exploits at Sydney almost 13 years ago.
Since Waddell provided his country's solitary gold at the XXVII Olympiad, rowing has developed into the foundation stone of New Zealand's medal dais.
And although it is unrealistic to expect the women to match the achievement of their male counterparts at Munich in 1972, today's opening World Cup regatta at Penrith represents the first step towards Brazil.
The crew were chosen at the national trials earlier this month and enter today's heat to apportion lanes with less than a fortnight's worth of preparation under legendary coach Dick Tonks.
Kelsey Bevan, a member of the eight which finished seventh at the 2010 World Championships at Lake Karapiro, said the regatta - which ends on Sunday - allowed an inexperienced unit to at least set any early benchmark.
"It's good to get here and just to see where we are, what we need to work on," the 22-year-old stroke said.
Perennial Olympic champions the United States are the naturally the favourites despite carrying only three members of the triumphant London 2012 crew.
Canada, silver medallists at Eton Dorney, also includes only three London Olympians while Great Britain is also expected to be strong.
"They (USA) have a strong women's sweeping programme. There's a lot of girls trying to get into their eight so it'll be good to judge our speed off how fast they're going," Bevan said.
Bevan admitted Rio de Janeiro loomed on her horizon but first the eight had to perform with distinction this weekend, the final World Cup regatta in Lucerne in July and then the World Championships, which are hosted by South Korea in late August.
"It's pretty much step by step, you want to make the crew each time but I'm definitely looking towards Rio. It's still in the back of my mind."
Coxswain Laura Campbell, 19, agreed the pressure to occupy her seat was intense - and ideal motivation despite a limited build-up.
"Hopefully our boat is competitive and a women's eight does go to Rio but all of us have to fight to make the boat competitive enough to be selected and then for our seat in it," she said.
"There's a lot of strong New Zealand women rowers coming through. Just because we're selected this year is no guarantee of what's to happen next year or four years away.
"It's an exciting possibility but there's a lot to be worked out between now and then."
Robyn Munro is the only original crew member unavailable - due to injury. She has been replaced by lightweight specialist Louise Ayling.
With Mahe Drysdale, Eric Murray and Hamish Bond bypassing the event - and Joseph Sullivan a surprise non-selection - Nathan Cohen spearheads the team is his new role in the quadruple scull.
Cohen combines with younger brother Hayden, Nathan Flannery and Fergus Fauvel and are guaranteed a medal - possibly New Zealand's 100th at World Cup level - because Australia and Great Britain are the only other nations entered.
London 2012 bronze medallist Peter Taylor is also in a new boat - the lightweight coxless four with Curtis Rapley, James Hunter and James Lassche.
Robbie Manson and Michael Arms hope to carry on the legacy of Olympic Champions Sullivan and Nathan Cohen in the double sculls.
Former long-standing Australian coach Noel Donaldson makes his first imprint on a New Zealand squad after his switch of allegiance last month.
He mentors the coxless four of Jade Uru, Bobby Kells, Adam Tripp and Tobias Wehr-Candler.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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