Rowing: Sojourning Olympian gets extreme advice

New Zealand world champion, Olympic bronze medallist and Oxford University rower George...
New Zealand world champion, Olympic bronze medallist and Oxford University rower George Bridgewater at Treble Cone yesterday. Photo by Matthew Haggart.
New Zealand Olympic rower George Bridgewater was urged to consider a career change - to extreme skiing - by his Oxford University team-mates at Treble Cone skifield yesterday.

There is no doubt the 2005 coxless pair world rowing champion has the physiology to succeed at most sports.

But whether the 26-year-old has the co-ordination to carve up mountains like he can the rowing lane is a moot point.

The Wellingtonian and his Oxford rowing eight are visiting Wanaka as part of a week-long trip around the South Island, after they lost to a Waikato University eight in the annual Great Race on the Waikato River in Hamilton on Sunday.

Bridgewater has been weighing up his options since he claimed a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics alongside Nathan Twaddle - who was in the winning Waikato eight last weekend.

After Beijing, the lanky oarsman headed to Oxford, where he has been studying towards an MBA, and re-evaluated his New Zealand rowing commitments.

"Everything is on hold while we're down here [in Wanaka]. I'm going to head back to Wellington and figure out my path forward from there."

Signing on for another Olympic campaign in London in 2012 involved "a lot of things falling into place".

"Most sports people will hate to tell you that things are out of their control. But in the situation I'm in at the moment, it's a little bit like that," Bridgewater said.

and Twaddle won a gold medal at the world rowing championships in Gifu, Japan, in 2005, in a memorable 45min during which four New Zealand crews won gold medals.

The pair finished second in the 2006 and 2007 world championships and went on to claim bronze at the Beijing Olympics last year.

Coming back to New Zealand to compete for Oxford in the race against Waikato and his old rowing partner was "bloody great".

It was the third time Bridge-water had rowed in the race - his previous turns have been as part of a winning Waikato eight and besting Oxford in 2003.

"It wasn't very fun losing, but that happens every now and then," he said of his 2008 turn-out for the Blues.

As the "lone Kiwi" in the Oxford team, Bridgewater has had to content himself with playing tour guide for the remainder of the team's trip to New Zealand.

A former frequent visitor to the skifields of the Southern Lakes - Bridgewater's father hails from Queenstown - he was enjoying a return to the area.

"Its been about eight years since I've last skied here, what with rowing all around the world.

"It's quite special to be coming back," Bridgewater said.

George Bridgewater
Champion rower

2008: Bronze medal, coxless pair, Beijing Olympics
2007: Silver medal, world championships, Munich
2006: Silver medal, world championships, Eton
2005: Gold medal, world championships, Gifu
2004: Fourth, Athens Olympics

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