Rowing: World-class rowers nurtured at Otago

Otago University Students Association Aquatics Centre director Glen Sinclair inspects the boats. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Otago University Students Association Aquatics Centre director Glen Sinclair inspects the boats. Photo by Craig Baxter.
It is a nursery for elite rowers. The Otago University Students Association Aquatics Centre has met the expectations of its director, Glen Sinclair.

Eight rowers who developed their skills at the centre represented New Zealand at the London Olympics.

Hamish Bond and Nathan Cohen won gold medals and Rebecca Scown and Peter Taylor bronze medals.

Also at the Olympics were Louise Trappitt, Louise Ayling, Fiona Bourke and Fiona Paterson.

Three other members of Rowing New Zealand's elite squad who did not go to the Olympics have used the facilities at the centre. They are Lucy Strack, Fergus Fauvel and Alistair Bond. The centre was built in 2002 to attract elite rowers to Dunedin. More than 400 rowers have used it over the past 10 years.

''We had good results from former Otago University rowers at the London Olympics,'' Sinclair told the Otago Daily Times.

The rowers are in Dunedin for eight or nine months of the year and then return to their home club or regional performance centre for the summer months.

Add to this list rowers who have represented New Zealand at under-23 level and been members of New Zealand University crews.

''Every year, the bulk of the NZU squad comes from Otago students,'' Sinclair said.

The University of Otago crews have relished the chance to train at the aquatics centre and have made their mark at international student regattas.

They continue to get invitations to race in world rowing events in Russia and China. This year, the women's eight raced in Seattle, in the United States.

''It is all about getting the international experience,'' Sinclair said.

University of Otago rowing has a big name in university rowing circles around the world.

''New Zealand's success in recent years has helped us as well,'' Sinclair said. Seven members of this year's New Zealand juniors squad are coming to the University of Otago next year.

''We want to look after those guys to the standards they expect,'' Sinclair said. The centre depends on funding from Rowing New Zealand to hire a professional coach for the winter months.

''It is about giving the rowers the opportunity to do the quality hours of training while they are in Dunedin,'' Sinclair explained. The aquatics centre has been helped by financial contributions from former students. One of the strongest supporters is David Richwhite, who has backed the centre for the past eight years.

''He has put a lot back into his old university and was with us in London,'' Sinclair said. It was the first time Sinclair had met Richwhite. Within half an hour, former University of Otago student Nathan Cohen had won the gold medal in the double sculls.

''We were doing vibes and hugging each other,'' Sinclair said.

''He has pledged to continue his support for rowing at Otago University.''

Other supporters include Marcel Gray and Sir Eion Edgar and Jan, Lady Edgar.

The aquatics centre has the only indoor rowing tank in New Zealand.

''It is an amazing asset for us,'' Sinclair said.

''It helps bring beginners up to speed quickly and is used to improve the finer details of technique with elite rowers.

''The coach can stand beside the rower and move them into the correct position in the boat.

''Out on the speedboat on the harbour or lake, you are 10m to 15m away.

''Normally, after a session on the water, we go to the tank and explain the fine details to the rowers.''

The aquatic centre is following Rowing New Zealand's lead and is concentrating on small boats. It has 10 pairs that can also be used as double sculls, and a number of single sculls.

The Otago University Rowing Club concentrates on eights leading to the New Zealand University Games.

''For the rest of the year, we concentrate on small boats,'' Sinclair said. This year, five former high school rowers from the United States trained at the aquatics centre for five weeks and 10 more are booked in for next year.

The rowers do resistance training at the New Zealand High Performance Academy gymnasium.

Physiotherapist Matthew Dick, resistance trainer Mike Jacobs and nutritionist Sara Richardson are members of its staff.

It also has links to the Otago Polytechnic Institute of Sport and Adventure.


Otago University Aquatics Centre Olympians at London

Hamish Bond, Nathan Cohen, Rebecca Scown, Peter Taylor, Louise Trappitt, Louise Ayling, Fiona Bourke, Fiona Paterson.