Rowing: Late starter still rowing strong

Fiona Bourke has proved it is never too late to start.

She only began rowing in her first year at university in 2007. It is a time when many promising secondary school rowers give up the sport after their Maadi Cup years.

Bourke (25) had never rowed before attending the Otago University Rowing Club trials to select crews for the Easter tournament.

Her potential was recognised by university coaches Sonya Walker and Glen Sinclair and they developed her skills for the next three years in Dunedin while she studied for a double degree in commerce and chemistry.

She has been based at Cambridge with the Rowing New Zealand High Performance Academy since 2010 but has remained a member of the Otago University club.

Bourke has repaid the extra attention given to her by winning a bronze medal in the quadruple sculls at the world championships in 2011 and a silver medal in the double sculls last year. She also competed at the London Olympic Games.

Bourke won her first premier title in the women's eights in 2011 and collected her fourth and fifth red coats at the New Zealand rowing championships at Lake Karapiro at the weekend.

She was a member of the Southern RPC crew that won the premier double sculls and retained the women's premier eight for the fourth successive year.

Bourke was also a member of the premier quadruple sculls crew that won a bronze medal.

The eight, stroked by Lucy Strack (North End), led from the start and won the gold medal by nearly four seconds in a time of 6min 18.71sec. It was followed home by Central RPC (6min 22.52sec) and Auckland RPC (6min 25.32sec).

Strack also retained her title in the premier lightweight single sculls.

The other Otago member of the crew was Johannah Kearney (Oamaru), who was also in the gold medal-winning Southern RPC under-22 eight.

Kearney also won silver medals in the premier under-22 pair and the premier four.

Otago club coach John Parnell continued his remarkable success in the sculling events at national championships when his rowers won five medals - three silver and two bronze.

Anna O'Leary and Emma Winders won two silver medals in the double sculls in the club and under-19 events.

On Saturday they finished just behind Hawkes Bay with a time of 7min 23.29sec in the under-19 race.

Winders won her third medal at the championships when she finished third in the club single sculls in 8min 38.36sec. Anna O'Leary won the B final in 8min 54.02sec.

Jack O'Leary won a silver medal in the men's senior single sculls in 7min 28.61sec and partnered Mark Alm to win a bronze medal in the senior double sculls in 6min 32.25sec.

Bryce Abernethy (Otago) won a silver medal in the Southern RPC quadruple sculls in 6min 9.40sec.

It was a successful championship for Otago rowers, who won 18 medals - six gold, seven silver and five bronze. This was just one medal short of the record haul of 19 medals collected at Lake Ruataniwha last year.

The Wakatipu club, part of the Southland centre, won a gold and a silver medal.

The crew of Latham Jones, Reid Long, Willem van der Kaag, Chris Johnson and cox Henry Matthews won gold in the men's club four in 6min 27.52sec.

Johnson was replaced by Daniel Halligan in the under-19 four that won the silver medal in a time of 6min 31.81sec.


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