Kiwi crew is still behind eight ball
‘ We’re getting it, but we’re not getting it consistently.’ CALEB SHEPHERD
THE New Zealand men’s eight know they must convert potential into results over the next Olympic cycle.
The Kiwi boat to contest the 2017 world rowing champs in the United States starting tomorrow has long been seen as one capable of breaking into the elite heavyweight standings along with big boat superpowers Germany and Great Britain.
Gold medals at the 2013 and 2014 under-23 world champs signified the potential of the young crew, and strong World Cup showings prior to last year’s Olympic Games showed their progress had continued. But the Rio podium proved out of reach when the boat finished sixth in the A final.
A few changes to the crew since produced mixed results during the NZ team’s World Cup campaign but coxswain Caleb Shepherd hopes the crew has benefited from some harsh lessons.
‘‘We learnt a lot from Olympic year,’’ Shepherd said.
‘‘We lost that magic I guess that we’d had for the few years leading into and I guess it sort of taught us that it’s not there unless you make it happen.
‘‘You have to be consistent and that was probably the biggest thing to come out of last year. We were inconsistent. We found early speed but we lost it — we lost efficiency through the race and weren’t able to hold our speed throughout.
‘‘It’s [about] backing up performances and being able to hold our heads under pressure, being able to hold our technique under pressure and being able to thrive in that environment. The Igor Meijer Olympics threw up a whole lot of different things that we weren’t used to.’’
Inconsistency again reared its head in Europe — the NZ eight was an impressive second at their World Cup season debut in Poland but ninth in Switzerland the following month.
‘‘We’ve re-set, taken the lessons from that. I think it was a good wake-up call for us,’’ Shepherd said.
‘‘We’re getting it but we’re not getting it consistently.’’
‘‘We’ve got roughly half the crew for the last few years. We like to think we’ve got a bit of everything at the moment — we’ve got a bit of youth, we’ve got a bit of experience in James Lassche and then the bulk of us have been in the eight for a few years, so we know roughly how it works.’’
Lassche has jumped from the lightweight four to the heavyweight eight, while Drikus Conradie is a new addition.
‘‘Everyone has a different opinion and everyone has slightly different routines to make it work. But you have to fit the mould,’’ Shepherd said.
‘‘So the key is just making sure that everyone as an individual is within the framework of the crew; aligning everyone so they’re mentally on the same page.
‘‘The one thing an eight has is energy, and you can feed off each other and bounce off each other.
‘‘If someone is struggling a little bit you can pull them up, so that’s the good thing.’’
The NZ men’s eight is: Stephen Jones, Brook Robertson, Michael Brake, Shaun Kirkham, Isaac Grainger, Patrick McInnes, Drikus Conradie, James Lassche, Caleb Shepherd (cox), Gary Roberts (coach).
Coxwain Caleb Shepherd trains with the New Zealand men’s rowing eight..