Star-studded showdown looms at nationals

Last updated 18:18 18/02/2014

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The men’s premier double sculls event already looms as one of the highlights of the New Zealand rowing championships that started at Lake Karapiro today.

Olympic single scull champion Mahe Drysdale has teamed up with NZ double sculls representative Michael Arms in the Auckland RPC boat and the combination won their heat today in a time of six minutes 36.83 seconds to advance directly to Friday’s final.

However, that time was bettered in the second heat by the Central RPC duo of brothers Robbie and Karl Manson, who won in 6:34.67 to set up what could be a thrilling showdown.

Olympic and four-time men’s pairs world champion Hamish Bond teamed up with lightweight James Lassche – part of the NZ lightweight four that won silver at the 2013 world champs – to represent Southern RPC in the premier men’s pair to win their heat in style.

Lassche’s NZ lightweight four crewmate James Hunter was partnered by Chris Harris in the second heat’s winning crew from Central RPC, continuing an excellent summer from Hunter as the Kiwi four aim to go one better at this year’s world champs in Amsterdam in August.

The Central crew of Joseph Sullivan, the Manson brothers and Hunter set down a marker in the men’s premier quad’s sole heat, winning in 6:05.46.

That was well clear of the Southern combination of Hayden Cohen, Fergus Fauvel, Jade Uru and John Storey, while the Auckland crew of Arms, Drysdale, Peter Taylor and Giacomo Thomas were close up in third.

There are only three crews contesting the women’s premier quad event, so today’s heat was just a trial run for the final, but it confirmed that the showdown should be a pitched battle.

The Waikato crew of Zoe Stevenson, Sarah Gray, Georgia Perry and Julia Edward headed home the Southern combination of Eve MacFarlane, Lucy Spoors, Grace Prendergast and Fiona Bourke by just 0.78 seconds, with a gap back to Central in third.

Prendergast and MacFarlane will also contest the women’s premier pairs final as heat winners after edging out Auckland’s Kelsey Bevan and Kayla Pratt in another three-crew heat that saw all boats progress to the final.

The national champs see the country’s elite rowers split from their usual international combinations to represent clubs and Regional Performance Centres, often producing tight racing.

Bourke and Stevenson won silver in the women’s double sculls at the 2013 world champs in Chungju, South Korea, but are trying to outdo each other this week in opposing boats.

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Bourke teamed with Spoors to produce the best qualifying time in the premier double sculls heat in 6:59.25, but that was only 0.81s ahead of Stevenson and Gray. 

Peter Taylor and Duncan Grant won their respective men’s premier lightweight single scull semifinals to qualify directly to the final while Lucy Strack will be favoured to capture the women’s title after an impressive heat win.

As expected, Bond and Drysdale won their respective men’s premier single sculls heats in convincing fashion to advance directly to Sunday’s final, while Stevenson and Emma Twigg did the same in the women’s heats.

- Fairfax Media

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