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Kiwi rowers confident and excited as their international season begins

Thursday 16 June 2011, 9:55AM

By Rowing New Zealand

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New Zealand’s top elite rowers are looking forward to their first international appearance of the 2011 rowing season this weekend at the second FISA Rowing World Cup in Hamburg, Germany.

The squad for Hamburg includes the men’s and women’s world champion pairs, the world champion men’s double scull, the former world champion lightweight double scull, the new look men’s four, 2010 bronze medal winner Emma Twigg and four time world champion Mahé Drysdale.

The rest of the elite team will travel to Europe for the third World Cup regatta in Lucerne Switzerland in July ahead of August’s 2011 World Rowing Championships at Bled in Slovenia. This is the qualifying regatta for the 2012 Olympic Games in London and means the stakes in 2011 are high.

Confident that existing team procedures and processes combined with German authorities’ own stringent efforts to ensure no E-coli threat to the rowing community exists at the regatta, the rowers have focussed this week on acclimatising and getting over the 36 hour flight with plenty of rowing ahead of the regatta itself, which begins on Friday and concludes on Sunday.

Drysdale, like the other athletes, is itching to go racing. “This is an exciting year for me, I am training differently and it is a big test to see if what I am doing will keep me up at the front of the field, he said. “If not then I will make further tweaks to ensure I am competitive at the World Championships.

“Qualifying is the number one goal for me this year, although also important is building confidence that what I am doing this year is working. I know that if I am near my best, qualifying won’t be a problem and that will also lead to a good result and build confidence.

Unbeaten for two years in the pair, Hamish Bond and Eric Murray are also eager to get back racing in Europe, though are disappointed that they will not face their arch rivals Great Britain, who pulled out of the regatta last week because of the E-coli scare. Both believe their training has gone well enough to keep them at the sharp end of this weekend’s strong field, however.

“Training has been going very well,” said Bond. “We have had our best run of training and we are excited to see what position our training will put us in. The real challenge will be maintaining our dominance of the event. It is hard to know how we are going to stack up until we get into our first race. We fully intend to qualify for the Olympics by winning in Bled.”

New world champions in action are Juliette Haigh and Rebecca Scown in the women’s pair and Joseph Sullivan and Nathan Cohen in the men’s heavyweight double scull. The double is aiming high after their fantastic win at Karapiro last November and their recent victories over the Australian Olympic champions in a two head to head races held at Karapiro recently.