Retiring rower Cohen offers his heartfelt thanks

LOGAN SAVORY
Last updated 05:01 20/12/2013
FAIRFAX NZ

Southland rower Nathan Cohen speaks about his reasons for retiring and the journey from the Oreti River to an olympic gold medal.

Nathan Cohen
LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ
ENDURING IMAGE: Nathan Cohen, right, and Joseph Sullivan after winning gold in the men's double sculls at the London Olympics in 2012.

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Nathan Cohen has been reflecting over the past few days as his decision to retire from rowing sinks in.

The two-time world champion and 2012 Olympic champion is now eyeing life after top-level sport as he braces himself for a new job at the Bank of New Zealand's commercial department in Waikato.

After an enforced break because of a minor heart problem, Cohen has decided he has achieved his goals in rowing.

He said the heart problem wasn't the reason for his retirement but did provide a break which prompted him to consider his future.

A remarkable 14-year journey, from everyday Invercargill kid to Olympic champion, has come to an end.

Cohen admits this was one of the first times he has had a decent reflection on where he came from and just what he has achieved.

"When you sit back and look at it I started out on the Oreti River as a 13-year-old and it went from there, and to look at the journey, it's been a pretty amazing experience. Now I look back and now I've made the decision, everyone is bringing up some great stories from along the way and it sinks in how awesome it's been.

"Like I said, starting on the Oreti River and going on to achieve an Olympic gold medal, even now I still can't fully believe it has happened that way."

The now 27-year-old remembers fondly how he got into the sport. He didn't come from a rowing family - an Invercargill Rowing Club quad were short of a rower in 1999 and Storm Uru - who would go on to become a fellow 2012 Olympic medallist in 2012 - invited Cohen to help out.

"I have Storm to thank for getting me involved in the first place," he said.

"We had so much fun together right from the start and it carried on from there, even though we were absolutely hopeless in our first couple of years. That was such an important thing for me because sport was almost more about enjoyment than it was about results, the results started coming later because you enjoyed it so much."

Cohen said he had many people to thank in his progress to the world's biggest sporting stage, and it was difficult to name names because he didn't want to leave anyone out.

His family, he said, had helped him through the tough times - occasions not many other people were aware of - and there were many others who had played important roles.

Despite spending much of his elite rowing career based in Cambridge at the Rowing New Zealand headquarters, Cohen said Southland had always remained by his side and he wanted to pay special tribute to the people of the region.

"I'd like to say thanks to the people of Southland for all the support, it's been awesome to have, right through. I'm very proud and it's been an honour representing the province."

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