Kiwi crew is still be­hind eight ball

Sunday News - - SPORT - IAN AN­DER­SON

‘ 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..

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