NZ rowing crew changes loom in path to Rio

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 06/03/2014
Kayla Pratt
Getty Images

GOLDEN GLOW: Kayla Pratt, left, and Rebecca Scown, were one of the new crews successfully put together for last year's world champs in South Korea.

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Rowing New Zealand may not be averse to rocking the boat a little when they name their world championship and World Cup teams today.

It's understood the selectors who will choose the make-up of the senior squad to attend three World Cup regattas this year and the world champs in Holland in August will make changes to their top boats two years out from the Olympic Games.

Rowing NZ made some notable changes to their top crews last year following a highly successful 2012 London Olympics campaign, where they won three gold and two bronze medals.

Those switches also proved profitable, as NZ also claimed five medals at last year's world champs in Chungju, South Korea. Three of those were won by new combinations - Rebecca Scown and Kayla Pratt in the women's pair, Fiona Bourke and Zoe Stevenson in the women's double sculls and the men's lightweight four of James Hunter, Peter Taylor, James Lassche and Curtis Rapley.

But with the organisation facing qualifying for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics at next year's world champs, the selectors need to have one eye on the future and it's understood there's still plenty of debate on the best options to chase medals in Rio.

Rowing NZ has a stated ambition of entering boats in all 14 Olympic classes in 2016, ensuring they should name a large squad for their European campaign. However, it's believed some of the crews have failed to meet the high standards set by the selectors and will not make the trip later this year.

The first World Cup of the year will be held at Sydney later this month, with Rowing NZ set to name a small squad likely to consist of a women's single sculler, women's pair, lightweight women's double sculls and a men's eight, which will split to race in the coxless four and pairs events.

The squad named for the World Cup regattas in France and Switzerland in June and July respectively, and the world champs, will be notably larger. New Zealand's strength over the past decade has been in the smaller boats and that is likely to again be shown when the various squads are named this afternoon.

It's expected a large team will also be chosen to contest the world under-23 championships in Varese, Italy, in July. Last year, Rowing NZ sent seven boats to the event in Linz, Austria, and all made A finals, with a medal return of one gold, two silver and two bronze.

The gold came in the men's eight, and while it's likely the same crew will head to Sydney, they may be left out of the squad for the other World Cup regattas. The entire crew is eligible for the u-23 event again, and may be given the carrot of a world championship berth should they defend their title.

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- Fairfax Media

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