23 Aug 2019

Scullers enjoying chase for Olympic spots

5:42 am on 23 August 2019

New Zealand's single scullers go into next week's World Rowing Championships with completely contrasting build-ups but with a common goal.

New Zealand single scull rowers Emma Twigg and Robbie Manson.

Emma Twigg and Robbie Manson Photo: PHOTOSPORT

While success at a World Championship is important for all 53 New Zealand athletes in Linz, Austria, for the majority of them gaining Olympic qualification is their number one priority.

After two years away from the sport Emma Twigg is starting a new campaign trying to put the hurt of previous campaigns behind her, while Robbie Manson has finally overcome internal rivalries to put together what he thinks is the best preparation to win a world and Olympic title.

Twigg won both of the World Cup events she competed in this year and is one of the favourites to add to the only other world title she won in 2014.

Twigg took a break from rowing after the Rio 2016 Olympics where she finished fourth, the third time she failed to step on the podium at an Olympics.

After two years working with the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, the 32 year old returned to rowing this year and has so far been unbeatable.

Coach Mike Rodger looks after both Twigg and Manson.

Rodger says they're very encouraged by Twigg's results this season.

"She's come back super motivated with some clear goals and has put in place a good team around her to help her achieve her goals, Tokyo obviously being her goal."

Twigg has been an elite rower since 2006 and attended three Olympics, finishing fourth at the last two.

Rodger says Twigg was clearly disappointed with her Rio result.

"I think once she got over the initial disappointment of Rio she felt like the job wasn't complete and has come back really so focussed on what she wants to do. She's refreshed, she's excited and yeh I think for her it's really helped give her clear goals."

"We keep talking about learning's for Tokyo, and she's in a really good headspace."

Emma Twigg at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Emma Twigg Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Rodger says Twigg still needs to get better because a few years ago it was between 3 or 4 rowers in her event, but now it's up to eight and they haven't seen defending world champion Sanita Puspure of Ireland compete yet this year.

As for Robbie Manson he's had a challenging path to the World Championships and what he hopes will be an Olympic spot.

For the last couple of years he's had a major battle with Mahe Drysdale for the right to sit in the single sculls boat.

He's finally grabbed the seat with two-time Olympic champion Drysdale now in the men's eight.

Manson finished a disappointing fifth in the last two World Championships, but it has been agreed that the vigourous process he had to go through earlier in those seasons to gain the berth probably counted against him later in the year.

However this year he was assured the seat would be his all season and he and his coach (Rodger) have had the World Championships and Olympic qualification as their sole focus.

Manson didn't even make the final of the first World Cup event he entered, while he finished fifth in the second.

Robbie Manson, New Zealand elite Mens Single Scull

Robbie Manson Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Rodger says their first aim is to qualify the boat for next year's Olympics by making the final, the next aim is a podium finish to make sure it's Manson who is representing New Zealand at the Olympics.

"We do think that a good result here will definitely make it harder for the selectors to take that (Olympic spot) away from him."

"I want him to row to his ability and when he is at his best, well he is a world record holder, and he is very fast so it'll be a good person to be able to be in front of him."

Rodger is also very happy with how Manson is mentally ahead of the champs.

"He's probably in one of the better headspaces I've definitely seen Robbie coming into a World Champs, he's been injury free and mentally he's in a really good space, his spirits are up."

New Zealand has 53 athletes in 16 boats at the World Championships in Austria.

Olympic qualification will be decided in 14 of the classes.