By DAVID HILL
North Canterbury rowing great Athol Earl says he was amazed to see New Zealand’s latest Olympic rowing success.
The 1972 Olympic Games men’s rowing eight gold medallist admitted he didn’t expect this year’s men’s eight to win gold.
“It was bizarre. I thought they would get bronze or maybe silver. It was mind blowing and the women did bloody well – silver is very good.
“I’m on such a high today I don’t know how I will sleep tonight,” he said on Friday.
This year’s New Zealand rowing squad won gold medals in the men’s eight, women’s pair and women’s single scull events, and silver medals in the women’s eight and women’s double scull events.
Mr Earl, who also won Olympic bronze with the 1976 men’s eight, says any medal is a huge achievement.
“I know when we won the bronze, it was four years after the gold so I was gutted at the time, but now I’m quite proud of it.”
A lot has changed since his rowing days, as there is a more professional environment for today’s rowers with four regional performance centres feeding into a national programme based at Lake Karapiro in the Waikato.
“We were amateurs. They don’t make big money, like the All Blacks, but it pays for the food and the flat rent,” Mr Earl says.
“They have a good programme now where they feed them in from the juniors and the under-23s, so they can see a good career path and the under-23s train with the elite rowers so they can see what they need to do.”
Four local rowers followed in Mr Earl’s footsteps by competing at the Tokyo Olympics.
Sam Bosworth, who grew up at Waipara, is the coxwain in the gold medal winning men’s eight, while Ella Greenslade, who is originally from Waikari, is a member of the silver medal winning women’s eight.
Oxford’s Olivia Loe and Eve Macfarlane, from Parnassus, also competed in the women’s quadruple sculls, with the boat missing out on the A final.
North Canterbury was represented in other sports, with Oxford’s Tim Price and his wife Jonelle competing in the New Zealand equestrian three-day eventing team.
In the mountain biking, Woodend born and raised Anton Cooper placed sixth in the elite men’s race in his first Olympics, finishing just 12 seconds behind the medallists.
Rangiora High School’s 2019 deputy head girl Gabi Rennie was a member of the Football Ferns women’s football team, coming on as a replacement to score a goal against Australia in her international debut.
“We are very proud of Gabi and her achievements. She is a wonderful role model for North Canterbury’s young people,” Rangiora High School principal Karen Stewart says.
Joining Gabi at the Games were her brother Liam and fellow ex-Rangiora High School student Casey Higby attending as camera operators for New Zealand news media.