Medals spur rowing interest

Row your boat: Otago University Rowing Club members Curtis Bush (left) and Jamie Saunders get...
Row your boat: Otago University Rowing Club members Curtis Bush (left) and Jamie Saunders get ready to train at the Otago University Students' Association aquatic centre. Photo by Jonathan Chilton-Towle
Local rowing clubs are experiencing a huge rise in public interest after New Zealand's recent successes in the sport at the London Olympics.

Otago Rowing Association manager Sonya Walker said Dunedin clubs had been flooded with inquiries since New Zealand rowers won three gold and two bronze medals.

"We're already getting more emails and questions about rowing, but we expected this," she said.

"When the Evers-Swindell twins won gold at the last Olympics, I think our women's doubles numbers increased threefold."

She predicted similar increases after these Olympics, particularly in the men's doubles.

Otago University Rowing Club chief executive Glen Sinclair went to London to watch the Olympics.

"Otago University Rowing has seven athletes here that have rowed with us at some stage over the past 10 years, so the opportunity to see them succeed was to good to pass up," he said.

The club was now too full to accept new members, 80 to 100 students rowing seriously every week, he said.

"Rowing numbers for us are already huge. The sad thing is we don't have room for people who just want to do it socially," he said. "But that is not to say that all clubs in Dunedin are like this. Otago Rowing Club, Port Chalmers Rowing Club and North End Rowing Club are all great clubs and certainly have room for people who want to start.

"A lot of people think it is too late to begin once you have left school.

This is actually the perfect time.

Mahe Drysdale didn't start until he was at university."

The rowing clubs weren't the only sporting groups in Dunedin experiencing increased interest after their sport featured in the Olympics.

Dunedin Gymnastics Academy head coach Carmel Leslie said interest in gymnastics usually picked up after the Olympics.

"What we will see is an increase in interest, particularly among our gymnasts. That enthusiasm tends to spread to their families," she said.

"Gymnastics is a foundation sport. It's a fantastic thing to be involved in for mind and body."

However, with 890 casual members and more than 130 competitive gymnasts, the academy was full, and people wanting to sign up would have to go on a waiting list, she said.

Dunedin Badminton Club president Wayne Jopson said badminton had had a lot of attention at the Olympics, perhaps for the wrong reasons, several teams being disqualified for playing to lose.

"We've had the odd inquiry, but that's normal. Maybe we will see some in the next few weeks," he said.

- Jonathan Chilton-Towle


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