Kiwi rower Strack on track for a top season
The 2016 Rio Olympics don't seem that far away for Lucy Strack.
The Kiwi lightweight double sculler already has the Games as her focus, and is preparing accordingly.
Strack took out the premier women's single sculls title at the three-day Christmas Regatta that finished at Lake Karapiro on Sunday in impressive fashion in a field that was without 2013 world championship silver medallist Emma Twigg.
Her time was eight minutes 08:40 seconds, giving her a winning margin of over five seconds from Genevieve Behrent, with Strack's fellow lightweight scullers Julia Edward and Louise Ayling third and fourth, respectively.
Strack also teamed up with heavyweight sculler Twigg to win the women's double sculls in 7.11:51 from Zoe Stevenson and Sarah Gray.
The victories were confirmation for the 24-year-old that she is in excellent early-season shape, after last month setting a personal best for the 5km erg (indoor row) test by 20 seconds.
"I'm feeling good with the shape that I'm in," Strack admitted.
She and lightweight doubles crewmate Julia Edward were fifth in the world champs final in Chungju in September, after winning gold at the opening World Cup regatta of the year in Sydney and bronze in the third and final Cup event in Lucerne.
"I decided that I've got a lot to improve on in the short-term and long-term; to first of all make the double then move on to Rio," Strack said.
"There's a lot that I need to improve on and Rio's only two and a half years away now. There's no time to muck around - action has to happen."
After injuries in 2011 meant she missed selection for the Olympics as Rowing NZ opted for an Edward/Ayling combination, Strack now feels she's in the best form of her short career.
"The training regime, they way that your body develops - it takes years to develop for your body to adapt to become world class," she said.
"I've got enough years under my belt now that my body is really starting to get into the right shape that I want it to be internationally.
"Also, with the way I approach training, there's definitely an urgency in what I'm doing. I feel like I'm making gains because I'm super focused. Not that I was ever not focused on it, but there definitely feels like there's a sense of urgency now."
Strack said there's a lot of work still required to make the medals at the highest level.
"We need to make that work happen now to make it possible to be there.
"There's so much depth in the lightweight racing - new people are emerging, old people are coming out of the woodwork and heavyweights are coming down to lightweights to gain that extra edge.
"All around the world the lightweights are really upping the game and we need to be on it to be keeping up."
Most of the Rowing NZ summer squad were to the fore at Lake Karapiro.
Hamish Bond is widely regarded as the best sweep oar rower in the world, and over the regatta he showed he's a handy sculler as well.
Bond had too much condition for Olympic single sculls champion Mahe Drysdale on Sunday, comfortably winning the premier men's final. Bond recorded a time of 7.05:39, almost six seconds quicker than Drysdale with his pairs crewmate Eric Murray third in 7.17:14.
"Solid start to season, gd race but @hamishb1 too strong so 2nd. Pleased with where I am, gr8 to see so much gd competitive racing," Drysdale later tweeted.
As expected, last year's world champion bronze medallists Rebecca Scown and Kayla Pratt easily won the women's pair title.
Peter Taylor and James Hunter gained bragging rights over their lightweight four crewmates Curtis Rapley and James Lassche in the fiercely-contested men's pair final, winning by just .09 seconds in a field that didn't feature Bond and Murray.
Brothers Robbie and Karl Mason won the men's double sculls final ahead of Hayden Cohen and Fergus Fauvel, with Joseph Sullivan and Giacomo Thomas third.
Sullivan teamed up with Thomas, Jeff Francis and Karl Manson to win the men's quad in 6.15:01, just .56 seconds ahead of Cohen, Fauvel, Jade Uru and John Storey.