Women’s eight crowned world champions

Members of the New Zealand Women’s eight crew, from left, Jackie Gowler, Lucy Spoors, Kelsey Bevan, Beth Ross, Caleb Shepherd and Emma Dyke.

The New Zealand women’s eight has returned to Cambridge as the country’s first women’s eight crew to earn gold at the World Rowing Champs.

They’re now back training at Lake Karapiro, spending the coming season preparing for selection to the New Zealand Olympic Rowing team so that they can race the boat they qualified for Tokyo during the world championships in Austria.

“It was definitely tough because it was an Olympic qualification regatta, which means only five boats qualify, that was probably the most special thing for us,” said Lucy Spoors. “We definitely had a sense of confidence, after our earlier regattas in the year – getting at win at World Cup number three in Rotterdam, so we knew what we could achieve and had confidence under pressure.”

“We got to tick off that goal of being the first women’s eight from New Zealand to win, so that was quite special,” said Kelsey Bevan. “We’ve been slowly trying to tick things off, we qualified in 2015, got second, and then this year we won the world champs. That was really special because New Zealand has struggled with women’s eights. So, we’ve been slowly trying to develop an eight that can be top of the world, and it’s quite cool to finally have that.”

The NZ women’s pair Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast, also on the women’s eight, had two events to contest at the world champs – also winning the women’s pair final. “Having two events, they handled it really well,” said Spoors.

The women’s eight won both their heat and their final at the competition, winning by a narrow margin over Australia.

“We had a good start, but the Australians had started faster than us,” explained coxswain Caleb Shepherd. “They were just in front of us by about a canvas, and we sort of stayed in our boat, stayed on our rhythm through the middle, reached the thousand mark, and then brought it up to finish in the last 600 metres and managed to get past them.”

Despite winning by 2.8 seconds, Shepherd said the win was “tight the whole way” but “finished really well”.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Shepherd. “It was really cool to think that people have tried before us, and come close a few times, but never quite done it, and for us to finally get there I think is really cool for the country.”

The elite rowers said school age rowers also training on Karapiro were welcome to come up and talk to them about advice or any lingering questions they may have.

“If you’re based in Cambridge just reach out, you can talk to us, we’re here to help,” said Kelsey.

“There’s still room to get faster, and that’s pretty much what we’re doing, training with our wider team and just trying to get faster for the Olympics.”

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