Students raring to row at world champs

From left, Seth Hope, Jason Nel and Rebecca Leigh pictured before dinner time with the New Zealand Junior rowing team at Podium Lodge.

Three Cambridge students will take the trip of a lifetime next month, travelling to Japan to represent New Zealand on the Junior rowing team.

For Rebecca Leigh, named in the women’s quadruple scull, it’s her second time donning the iconic black rowing suit after competed in last year’s World Rowing Junior Championships too.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said the 17-year-old, who is looking forward to seeing what it’s like to race on saltwater.

The 2335m junior champs course, which will host the rowing segment of the 2020 Olympics, has been built in the Tokyo Bay harbour using a western and eastern dam to maintain a consistent water level.

Her Cambridge counterparts, Seth Hope and Jason Nel, reckon the salt water will slow them down, where as Rebecca thinks it will make them lighter and more buoyant.

“It’s pretty cool either way,” said Jason, who attends St Peter’s School with Rebecca.

Jason, 17, and Seth, 18, have been named in the men’s quadruple scull. Being in the same crew comes as a rather ironic twist of fate, after the two boys have been rowing rivals throughout high school.

“It’s a friendly rivalry,” said Jason, who managed to beat Seth – a Cambridge High School student – in the Maadi Cup single scull final last year, after Seth beat him at the previous North Island round.

“It’s going to be fun,” Seth said, looking forward to the event in early August. “It will be good to race against the best of other countries, just to see where you stand.”

“It’s a weird feeling, looking next to you,” Jason added. “Instead of seeing Hamilton Boys High we’re going to see the likes of Russia and Great Britain.”

The boys unanimously agreed that their only goal was a gold medal. “Everyone wants a gold, but you have to make the A final to be up for a medal, so making the A final is a priority,” said Jason. “And on top of that, there are only six spots in the final compared to 8 spots in schools racing.

“It’s a pretty big opportunity for us.”

“And it’s a big step up too,” said Rebecca, “in terms of racing and training intensity.”

The New Zealand Junior team is currently staying at Podium Lodge in the build up to their departure on July 26, with all of the high school age rowers from around the country continuing their studies at St Peter’s during their stay.

Up at 5am and training twice a day, they’re currently rowing about 110km a week, with that number expected to rise to around 200km per week by the end of their training campaign.

They wished to thank their five “camp mums” at Podium Lodge for their awesome support during their training.

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