It was almost impossible to sneak through the Olympic rowing village four weeks ago without bumping into a Kiwi. Black singlet-wearing athletes and Rowing New Zealand’s support staff littered the temporary compound.
Three weeks on it’s an entirely different place. Now only two kiwis call Royal Holloway home, Waikato’s Danny McBride and Coach Norman Charlton, but that’s just the way McBride likes it.After all, the solitary life as a single sculler is one of the reasons he switched from wheelchair basketball to rowing in the first place. “When PNZ put out the expression of interest in the Xcelerate 2 Xcellence [Paralympics New Zealand's Talent Identification programme]thats why I ticked the rowing box, it was something I really wanted to do, especially the single sculling. Working in the forestry you do spend a lot of time by yourself, when you’re felling [trees] for 8 hours a day it’s just you and the chainsaw. Rowing’s not quite as long a training as that, but yeah I like the solitude,” McBride explained.
The fact that the rewards are directly contributed to by the athlete is also a big attraction for the father of two. “It’s up to me you know, it was up to me how many trees got put on the ground and now it’s up to me how hard I train and I really enjoy it.”
The other stark difference to New Zealand’s Paralympic Rowing campaign is the style in which McBride’s injury means he has to race. When Mahe Drysdale was thundering down Dorney to claim his long awaited gold, his power was coming from his legs. But as McBride is paralysed from the waist down, lugging a chainsaw about the bush for forty hours a week has come in handy. “My coach Norm talks about your legs are like a V8 and I think I’ve got a V2 in my arms” jokes McBride, but never having rowed before his accident McBride's not about to let that get in his way. “When you do something over and over, that’s all you know and I guess it becomes easier and easier. I guess I’m lucky I’ve got the build to have done all right,” he went on to say.
Being in London is a dream come true for the 43 year old forestry worker, and it’s the other half of the reason for taking up rowing. “Getting to the Paralympics was always a goal of mine, right from when I started playing sport [again] and I’ve been lucky enough to have been to two world champs and here I am at the Paralympics. I would have loved to have done it with Basketball but I’m so proud to be here with Rowing, I just love rowing, it’s awesome."
With no other’s in McBride’s class in New Zealand it’s hard to get a gage on just how well he will go in London. Lining up against eleven others is a far cry from racing the clock on Lake Karipiro. However, the 2010 World Championship bronze medallist is in high spirits and with the support of his extended family joining him in London, anything can happen.
His first race is on Day two, Saturday night at 9:10pm nzt.
McBrides injury was caused by being struck by a falling rotten tree while working in the bush in 2006. He still works in the Forestry industry today, but now as a safety office