Rowing: Coach to join NZ squad

Otago University rowing coach Sonya Walker is on track for higher honours and will spend a week with the New Zealand Olympic team in Brussels.

Walker is manager of the 10 crews and 37 New Zealand rowers who will compete at the world under-23 championships in Trakai, Lithuania, next month.

It is the largest New Zealand team that has been sent to the event.

Walker will be busy at the championships that run from July 11 to 15. She will then spend a week as a development manager with the Olympic team at its training camp in Brussels.

"I'm excited about it," Walker said.

"It's great opportunity for me to observe high-performance sport in action."

Walker also managed the under-23 team that competed in Amsterdam last year.

Walker, the coach at the Otago University Rowing Club, has two former club members in the New Zealand crews.

Toby Cunliffe-Steel is in the men's lightweight coxed four and Genevieve Behrent in the women's quadruple sculls.

The quadruple sculls is one of the crews that Walker is tipping to reach the podium at Trakai.

The other crew is the women's coxless pair of Kelsey Bevan and Kyla Pratt.

"They were in the women's eight that won a silver medal at Amsterdam last year," Walker said.

"The standard at the championships is very high, with a number of the crews competing in World Cup events. A good performance often sees them selected for the world championships."

This happened in 2010 for North End club rower Lucy Strack and Julia Edward, who were selected later that year for the senior world championships at Lake Karapiro.

Edward won a silver medal in the lightweight double sculls at Amsterdam last year and will be competing in the London Olympics.

She is teamed with Louise Ayling and the pair are now podium prospects for the Olympics, after convincingly winning the World Cup gold medal at Munich last weekend.

"The under-23 championships is an event where young rowers can make their mark and push for higher honours, " Walker said. "It tests their temperament."

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