O’Dwyer chases American dream

American universities are lining up to offer top rowers athletic scholarships.

“They chase all of the rowers – they send recruiters over to meet you,”  year 13 Cambridge High School student Tegan O’Dwyer said.

Tegan O’Dwyer (Cambridge High School). Photo: Picture Show Ltd

O’Dwyer has been selected for the New Zealand U19 coastal beach sprints rowing team and has been a standout for Cambridge High School rowing over the past two seasons.

She won gold in the U17 girls’ single sculls at last year’s Maadi Regatta, and took out the U17 girls’ quad event with teammates Izie Murray, Lucy Eastwood and Libby Tonks.

On the back of that success, she was offered a trial for the New Zealand U19 rowing team.  She missed selection but knew there could be another chance this year.

However, disaster struck at the beginning of the 2023/2024 rowing season when she tore her anterior cruciate ligament while playing rugby.

“I chose a brace rehabilitation instead of surgery because I wanted to get back to rowing as soon as I could and that gave me a three-month timeframe,” she said.

“I missed the first half of the season but I got back in the boat with about two months to Maadi and I just went hard, I just really wanted to get there.”

She not only got there, but surprised herself by taking bronze in the U18 single and double sculls events.

Tegan O’Dwyer. Photo: Art of Rowing

That sparked another chance to trial for the national U19 team this year, but O’Dwyer believes she was probably hindered by three lost months of preparation.

“I was unsuccessful with that; I just wasn’t fast enough, probably because of a lack of training,” she said.

The silver lining was a trial for a New Zealand team to compete at the 2024 World Coastal Beach Sprint Finals in Italy this September.

She made the crew and was excited to discover one of her rowing idols, Olympic champion Emma Twigg, would also be competing at the event in a national open team.

“Coastal rowing is slightly different to normal rowing – it involves a beach sprint of about 50m to your boat, then rowing as fast as you can for about 250m, doing a 180m turn around a buoy and then rowing 250m back,” O’Dwyer said.

“It’s coming into the Olympics, so they’re trying to boost it a bit more now and get New Zealand involved in the world championships.”

After returning from Italy the 17-year-old will take a trip to the USA to decide whether to accept one of the athletic scholarships she has been offered there.

“It would be an amazing opportunity to take,” she said.

Longer term her goal is to win selection for the New Zealand U21 rowing team, which she said would be possible while studying in America.

“The Olympics is a few years away but it’s always a possibility if I stick with it,” she said.

Cambridge High School rowing star Tegan O’Dwyer.

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