2 Aug 2019

Olympic champs surprised by difficulty of rowing eight

11:40 am on 2 August 2019

The coach of the New Zealand men's eight says the two most experienced rowers in the side have been the ones who've struggled the greatest in getting the boat up to speed.

The New Zealand men's eight in 2019. Stephen Jones, Matt MacDonald, Phillip Wilson, Brook Robertson, Mahe Drysdale, Shaun Kirkham, Hamish Bond, James Lassche, & Sam Bosworth (coxswain).

Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Two-time Olympic singles champion Mahe Drysdale and two-time Olympic pairs champion Hamish Bond both transitioned into the eight earlier this year.

In recent years New Zealand Rowing has attempted to get the eights competitive on the world stage.

The men's eight finished fourth and third in the two World Cup regattas this year and are now a month out from the World Championships.

The crew includes Matthew MacDonald, 20, and Drysdaleat 40-years-old.

Coach Tony O'Connor, who has only been in charge since April, says the last couple of months has been quite tough for the two legends, but they've now got the hang of being in an eight.

"I won't say they've tempered their views, they're very very vocal but what works in the single or the pair doesn't necessarily work on the eight and the boys have found that out."

"Talking about learning when you've got a 20 year old teaching a 40 year old double Olympic gold medalist about stuff, that's pretty cool."

Eric Murray, Hamish Bond and Mahe Drysdale won't be part of the New Zealand's international rowing programme in 2017.

Eric Murray, Hamish Bond and Mahe Drysdale. Photo: Photosport

In previous boats Bond was always the stroke, but O'Connor said they quickly learnt that wouldn't work in the eight.

"He couldn't dictate the pace or the rhythm to seven people, it's okay when you've only got one person behind you, but when you've got seven behind you that's a lot of mass."

"When you've got hundreds and hundreds of kilos coming up and down the slide 40 times a minute, it's really hard to control that and he found that difficult."

Bond then started to move further down the boat and now he's in the number two seat, just in front of the bowman.

Bond admitted that there were times when he didn't know what he was doing, but now he loves where he is.

O'Connor said Drysdale has found the training completely different to what he has been use to, having suited himself in the single where he'd mix his rowing with work on the bike or in the gym or on the erg.

"In the big team you have to do what everyone else is doing, so he's done a bit more mileage on the water, more than he's done in quite a few years and he admits he's learnt a bit more about his body and how he recovers."

Stephen Jones, Matt MacDonald, Phillip Wilson, Brook Robertson, Mahe Drysdale, Shaun Kirkham, Hamish Bond, James Lassche, & Sam Bosworth (coxswain) New Zealand elite  Mens Eight
Bronze medalists 2019 World Cup regatta Rotterdam.

Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Drysdale has also moved around the boat to find his best place.

O'Connor said both the older guys are enjoying it, "and why wouldn't you, hanging out with basically guys half your age, so I think they're learning a lot and not just about rowing."

O'Connor was teaching at Christ's College earlier this year before he was offered the elite men's eight.

The Irishman said their aim at the beginning of the year was to qualify for the Olympics, however their expectations have certainly grown since then.

"A lot of the talk early on when this thing was put together was top five in the world to qualify for next year's Olympics, but now we want to win this thing."

"We've done reasonably well and things are getting better and better but to be world champions we're going to have to go two seconds faster, but that's why we're training."

New Zealand has only been men's eight world champions twice in 1982 and 83.

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