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The John McGlashan College pupil was recovering from a shoulder injury suffered in rugby when he was convinced to have a go at rowing.
Two years later, he has a world record.
The now 15-year-old rowed a time of 19min 15sec to break the 13-14 year olds concept 2 dynamic indoor rower 5000m mark by 8sec.
It is an impressive feat, putting him on a records list which also includes New Zealand greats Eric Murray and Rob Waddell.
The year 10 pupil, from Wedderburn, had been ready to give up with 2km to go.
He had been holding pace with the record, but was exhausted.
However, he was encouraged to push on through and ended up smashing his target.
It is made all the more remarkable by both the way he got into the sport, and how recently.
‘‘I had to come up to the gym to restrengthen [my shoulder],’’ he said.
‘‘One of the boys set me up on the erg for a 2km.
‘‘They said I should come down and have a go on the water and I’ve just stuck with it.’’
A Maadi Cup gold followed earlier this year, as he paired with Jack Pearson to win the under-15 double sculls by 2sec.
It was their first time racing together and also bagged them the school’s overall sports team of the year award.
The idea for the world record came after seeing a New Zealander break the half-hour record.
He spoke with his coaches — Tom Cummack, Jack Mclaughlan and Jared Brenssell — to see if there was one he could have a go at.
That was on the Sunday.
On the Tuesday he was at the Otago University Rowing Club making his first attempt.
His row was filmed and sent to officials as proof of the performance.
Despite the record, he remained very understated when it came to its significance.
John McGlashan sports co-ordinator Tony Gomez said it was a typical response from Smith.
‘‘Mark’s a very humble fellow.
‘‘He’s the type of guy who’d set a world record and then get off the erg and help out his mates.’’
His shoulder has since recovered and he is back playing rugby this year as a blindside flanker for the under-14 side.
However, rowing is now his priority sport.
Another Maadi Cup looms at the end of the summer, and while a gold medal would be nice, that is not his primary focus.
‘‘I guess it’s more about making the boat and going faster,’’ he said.
‘‘You can’t control what other crews are doing, so we’ll just do what we can.’’.