Classic Event Promises Classic Race

Friday 9 February 2007, 12:41PM
By Infonews Editor


One of New Zealand’s oldest sporting events promises a classic battle between two great athletes.

The BankLink New Zealand Rowing Championships – an event which can trace its origins back to 1887 - take place at Lake Ruantaniwha near Twizel between February 20th and 24th and promise a potentially classic race between the world’s fastest single sculler and a young pretender to his throne.

Mahé Drysdale had a spectacular 2006 season, confirming himself as the world’s greatest single sculler by retaining his world crown in one of the epic sculling races of all time – racing through German Marcel Hacker in the dying moments of the race in the fastest ever time. Drysdale has been training and racing in New Zealand since he returned in early December from a base in the UK and looks every inch the champion he is.

On his shoulder during training has been the sensational youngster Nathan Cohen – an Invercargill athlete and world Under-23 medallist at the age of 20 who is giving away both age and power to Drysdale, but who has been pushing him hard in recent races. In two events at Lake Karapiro this season, he has chased Drysdale all the way and held on to finish just a whisker behind.

One of the big questions at Twizel will be just how quick Cohen can go and whether he can take another step up to beat the champion. Even Drysdale admits Cohen is ‘a hard bugger who never gives up’ and a classic race in the final is almost a guarantee.

It’s not the only race on the agenda at the BankLink New Zealand Championships, however. One of the most keenly fought will be the legendary Boss Rooster race for Coxed Fours, where the winners get to paint a tin cockerel created 110 years ago this year as a trophy for a grudge match between the Queens Drive and Port Chalmers Clubs. Tradition also dictates that the winning crew must paint the cockerel in their own club colours within an hour of victory, or forfeit a keg of beer to the losers…

A full programme of racing includes sculling and sweep oar events for Novices (in their first season of racing), Under 19, Under 21, Lightweight, Club, Senior and Premier Athletes. New Zealand’s elite rowers will all compete for their respective Regional Performance Centres (RPCs) in composite crews representing their home clubs.*

Around 900 athletes from clubs on both the North Island and the South Island will take part in the event. As one of the country’s oldest events, it is one that sponsor BankLink is pleased to be involved with.

“We are really delighted to have a presence at the BankLink National Championships as proud Principal Partner to Rowing New Zealand,” explained company Director Malcolm MacDonald. “BankLink took the opportunity to sponsor Rowing New Zealand because of the strong links between Rowing New Zealand sporting ethos and BankLink’s core business values. We are allied in representing the best of Kiwi ingenuity with a drive to succeed, and a commitment to achieving excellence in our respective fields.

“Over the past year we have been fortunate enough to develop a closer relationship with the athletes, and the partnership has had a significant impact on our appreciation and respect for the both the athletes and the sport. As we embark on our second year of sponsorship, we would like to express how overwhelmed we are by the athletes’ dedication and energy. This historic event is a real highlight for BankLink and we are enjoying being involved with this growing success story.

“We would like to take this opportunity to wish all participants the very best of luck for the BankLink National Championships and convey how proud we are to contribute in a small way to the athletes’ success.”