Walker running his own race on the water
Quiet by nature, but with a beaming smile, Timaru rower James Walker seems well suited to being a single sculler.
The 16-year-old's breakthrough season continued yesterday at the New Zealand rowing championships on Lake Ruataniwha near Twizel.
The Timaru Boys' High School (TBHS) sculler was an emphatic winner of his men's club single heat to qualify for the final, setting the fastest time of the six heats in the process.
The result backed up his third placing in the heats of the under-20 single which saw him qualify for the semifinals and avoid a repechage.
Walker was originally a cyclist who decided to give rowing a try in his first year of high school.
"We had family friends who, in their cycling off-season, would do rowing and they used to tell me I should give it a go because it's great fun.
"The first season we did all right and I enjoyed it so I went back last season. I did really well (at the Maadi Cup), coming third in the under-16 single and second in the under-18 quad, and I just love it now.
"We don't usually do singles at TBHS, but they gave me a shot and it wasn't until South Islands last year that I started doing well.
"You're so used to following everyone in a team boat and relying on people to do their job," he said. "In a single, it's all you, it's all mental.
"If you want to stop you can but you can't at the same time because you know in your mind that you shouldn't, otherwise you'll let yourself down."
He said his effort in the heat of the under-20 single had given him confidence.
"I was last out of the start, so I thought I'd just wait to see what happened in front of me and some started to tire so I picked it up late and got into third."
He said it was tough to judge whether his times had him on track for a medal with so much cat-and-mouse being played early in the regatta.
He said all he could do was focus on himself.
"I'd prefer to be quiet and take in my surroundings.
"I'm not too worried if I win, I'm out there racing myself and trying to beat myself.
"If I beat other people at the same time, that is a bonus."
Walker said he was keen to prepare the best he could for the Maadi Cup national secondary schools championships next month and earn another South Island team trial.
Walker said he was keen to race in the moment and had not made a decision on whether or not he would continue rowing after he finished secondary school at the end of next year.
- © Fairfax NZ News