CUP GIVES PARENTS PAYBACK
Behind every one of the tanned and toned athletes at rowing's Maadi Cup this week is a slightly bleary-eyed parent.
Hundreds of them have converged on the banks of Lake Karapiro to watch their children compete in New Zealand's largest secondary school competition, and their dedication extends beyond simply taking a week off work.
In fact, without them, the sea of lycra and sweat that is the Maadi Cup probably wouldn't happen.
Parents like Wanganui Collegiate's Jill Phelps make sure their children get to training every morning and when it is time to compete, make sure the all-important food and transport are organised.
This week, Mrs Phelps will be up every morning at 7.30 to do the lunch shop, and will return in the afternoons to sort out food for dinner.
"The logistics of organising the food can be a little bit scary."
The cost of all of this, along with sports fees, accommodation, and transport, is borne by the parents.
But Mrs Phelps said that despite the time and money involved, she wouldn't change a thing.
"I just love what you get out of it. You get to know the children so well, and there's a great group of parents.
"Where else can you go and see 2000 super fit, tanned, gorgeous-looking children, working so hard, and so focused?" said Mrs Phelps.
Carolyn Vuleta agrees. Her son Louis, 12, is in his first year as coxswain for three St Peter's School rowing crews.
It has meant the whole family has had to adjust what they eat, not to mention altering when they go to bed and when they get up.
"It's 4.30 in the morning, it's the middle of the night.
"He's doing it seven times a week because he has three different crews, and often it's in the afternoons as well," Mrs Vuleta said.
But it was worth it because the camaraderie in the sport was second to none.
And her dedication hasn't gone unnoticed by Louis.
He has aspirations of one day being an Olympic coxswain, and in the meantime is focused on adding to his rapidly growing medal stash.
"It's quite nice to know that I've got that support, and if it doesn't go according to plan they'll support me all the way."
HOPING TO MAKE WAVES
Merepaea Matthew is one of a kind.
More than 2000 rowers from 121 schools will compete at the Maadi Cup this week but Merepaea is the only one from Piopio College slogging her way down the 2000-metre course at Lake Karapiro.
The 15-year-old yesterday contested the girls' under-16 and under-17 single sculls heats despite not having the ideal buildup to the national secondary schools rowing regatta.
"I've been off training for two weeks," she said soon after her under-17 heat.
"A friend's mum passed away. Then I was really sick for about a week too and that really held me back." She still took third place in her under-16 race, qualifying her for the quarterfinals of that event.
Piopio College has a storied rowing history, being the former school of the 2000 Olympic Games men's single sculls champion Rob Waddell, while Merepaea has been coxswain for a crew featuring rising Rowing New Zealand star Hannah Osborne.
She started while still in primary school, encouraged by older sister Ariana.
"She had a group of friends who found out about rowing and they told me how cool it was and how you could compete at these kind of events.
"She only rowed for a few years but their boat needed a coxswain, so I tried it out and liked it."
A couple of seasons ago, she decided to stop calling the action and to create it instead. "I was getting too big - couldn't hold the muscles in any longer," she quipped.
Merepaea lives five kilometres out of Te Kuiti and trains in the single scull with the Te Awamutu Rowing Club but has not managed to find any crewmates at school.
"None of them feel obliged to join me," she said, laughing.
Now at her third Maadi Cup, Merepaea does not expect to finish the week with a medal but still has her goals.
"I just really want to try to get into an A final and be with the people who get the medals. I love it out here - but it makes it a lot better if you get into the finals."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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