Kiwi rowers lay official protest

Emma Twigg has protested the conditions the crews were forced to race in on the opening day of...
Emma Twigg has protested the conditions the crews were forced to race in on the opening day of rowing at the Games. Photo: Getty Images.
Rowing New Zealand have laid an official complaint with organisers after the Olympic racing schedule continued in rough conditions on day one of heats at the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon.

New Zealand's chef de mission and former Olympic single sculls gold medallist Rob Waddell told media the rowers' perseverance was a testament to their skill.

"When you see boats going under water and people falling out, clearly it's getting to the limit of what might be acceptable for racing.

"From my years competing, you wouldn't even train in those conditions."

The rowers are backed to be New Zealand's top performers at the Games and six out of seven crews showed why on the opening day of competition.

The New Zealanders will simply say it's a matter of delivering on what they know they're capable of, and that's fine.

But in demanding conditions, where Emma Twigg and Mahe Drysdale were among those outspoken on the state of the water, they'll be quietly satisfied. Conditions were so ordinary that the Serbian pair Milos Vasic and Nenad Bedik, racing in Eric Murray and Hamish Bond's heat, capsized.

Five-time Olympic champion Steve Redgrave remarked that it was "fun" to see crews battling the elements. He might have thought differently in his racing days.

The one exception to the sweep of wins was the quad of Nathan Flannery, George Bridgewater, Jade Uru and John Storey, who finished fourth in their heat in 5min 59.13s and must go through a repechage to progress.

They were the late arrivals to the Rio field, having got in when the Russian crew were rubbed out after one of their number failed a doping test. Having been next best at the final qualifying regatta in Lucerne in May, they got the nod.

Crews from Estonia and the Ukraine finished first and second and advanced straight into their final. Germany were third, and ominously six seconds ahead of New Zealand, who were eighth best today.

Elsewhere Drysdale and Twigg, uncatchable pair Murray and Bond, women's double scullers Eve Macfarlane and Zoe Stevenson and men's scullers Robbie Manson and Chris Harris all had victories. As an indicator of how well New Zealand's collective performance may come to be seen, Australian Kim Brennan, the single sculls favourite, only managed an uncharacteristic third in her heat.

Macfarlane and Stevenson were three seconds clear of Australians Sally Kehoe and Genevieve Horton; Manson and Harris had the toughest scrap of the day, clocking 6:40.35 to hold off the Azerbaijan pair by .17s.

For the others it was business as usual.

Two more crews who will race on day two, the women's pair of Rebecca Scown and Genevieve Behrent, and lightweight double Sophie Mackenzie and Julia Edward, while both eights crews are on the water on day three.

It's way too early to start counting chickens. Only fools would do that, and the New Zealand rowing squad aren't that. Still, job well done, and no doubt with a philosophy of carrying on the way they've started in Rio.

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