By David Leggat
New Zealand’s women’s rowing eight have only one objective on their minds at this year’s world championships in Linz.
There’s no talk of having a backup chance to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics next year if things don’t work out at the worlds. To gain direct entry they need to finish in the top five in the A final.
It won’t be easy. It is becoming an increasingly competitive discipline.
That said, New Zealand’s eight are in good form this season. Having finished fourth in their opening World Cup regatta in Poland, they won World Cup 3 in Rotterdam, easy winners as it turned out.
Time is flying for the eight, according to senior athlete Kelsey Bevan. She’s been around the New Zealand elite team for several years, has rowed in pair and four crews and was a gold and silver medal winner at the under 23 world champs.
‘’When you think about it, I have been round a long time but it doesn’t feel like it. My years seem to be going by each year very fast,’’ she said.
‘’You have World Cups, world champs, a little break then summer squad training and trials and you do it all over again. There’s not much down time.’’
Bevan, 29, was part of the eight which finished just 1.38 seconds behind third placegetters Romania at the Rio Olympics, the first time New Zealand had qualified a women’s eight for the Games.
She was there at the worlds in Sarasota in 2017 when New Zealand finished third, .870s behind winners Romania, but last year was a major disappointment, unable to even make the A final.
‘’We had been tracking well last year but we had quite a young crew and when it came to the high pressure situation we didn’t handle it as well as we could.
‘’We dropped the ball, but went back to summer squad and it was a really good learning for us.
‘’You learn more from failures than success. It’s hard to handle at the time, but it’s definitely true.
‘’This year we seem to be improving with each regatta, so we want the world champs to be the best race we have this year.’’
A top five finish should be well within their grasp. There’s a last chance regatta next year to complete the Olympic field, but Bevan, a qualified beauty therapist and also chasing an interior design diploma, says there’s a strong view among the squad that they want their place sealed this year.
Bevan, from Counties Manukau, says the key to the Olympic experience is taking in as much as possible.
‘’The first couple of days are really busy, with lots of distractions. What I didn’t do at Rio was embrace those distractions.
‘’I was too busy trying to stay huddled in my bubble, which is good, but you almost need those distractions for a couple of days, then you’ve done the cool things and can knuckle down.’’
The one key ingredient for success for the eight in Tokyo?
‘’Work on trusting each other,’’ she said. ‘’Trust in the process to put in the fastest race we can do. As soon as you try to race other crews or look out of the boat and get distracted then we’re not rowing as well as we can.’’
Tokyo 2020 Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games Kelsey Bevan