Haigh bows out of rowing's Olympic challenge

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 03/12/2012

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A fourth Olympic campaign was a row too far for Juliette Haigh.

The London Olympics bronze medallist announced her retirement from the sport on Saturday night, culminating nine years at international elite level in a career which also saw her win three world championship titles.

Haigh said she was "90 per cent certain" she was going to retire following her bronze at Eton Dorney this year in the women's pair with crewmate Rebecca Scown and in the intervening months hadn't found a reason to change her mind.

"For me, the Olympic Games is everything and I would only come back if I was going to go to another Olympic Games," Haigh said about the prospect of competing at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

"I still love the sport but I don't think I can go through another Olympic cycle and so it's a nice and fitting time to retire."

Matthew Trott was another long-serving international who retired on Saturday after being part of the NZ men's quad that finished fourth in the B final in London.

Trott, 32, missed out on a spot in the double sculls with Nathan Cohen for the 2008 Beijing Olympics when he lost his place in the boat to Rob Waddell.

Haigh began her senior international career in the pair with Nicky Coles, with the duo finishing sixth at the 2004 Athens Olympics. The combination won gold the following year at the World Championships in Gifu, Japan, silver at the 2006 world champs and were fifth at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Haigh later teamed up with Scown to win consecutive world championship titles in 2010 and 2011.

The 30-year-old said while "in some ways it was difficult because it's obviously sad", retirement became a clear decision.

"I'm excited about going and doing some different things," said Haigh, who has a degree in public relations but wants to explore a number of varying career options.

"One day I'd like to give back to the sport too. For now it's about having a break from it but I'd love to come back and coach or have some role in the sport."

Haigh said the continued excellence of the Rowing New Zealand programme, which returned three gold and two bronze medals from London, shouldn't be taken lightly.

"I started off as almost the youngest member of an 11-person team in Athens. Back then I would have never imagined that we could have performed as well as we did in London.

"We've been on such a roll and Rowing NZ is on such a high but it's easy to forget how hard it is to do what we do. There was a time in NZ Rowing when making a final was a huge achievement and now we're battling it out for gold medals and if we don't win gold it's a disappointment.

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"The culture and the environment within Rowing NZ is incredible at the moment and to be a young rower is such an incredible opportunity."

Haigh said she cherished everything that happened in her career, despite the pain and suffering the sport inflicts.

"The low points are really low, when you invest so much into it. When you get injured or might miss selection, the heartache is just terrible.

"But I think they strengthen you to create the highs.

"And when you're on the podium, those things just fade away."

- Waikato Times

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