When the rowing bug bites

Courtney Rennie - from Tauranga to Plovdiv.

She dabbled with rowing four years ago at Bethlehem College.

It was ‘Give it a Go Day’.

Courtney Rennie was 15, her friends were up for it, so they gave it a go together. “We were looking for something to do and the boatsheds were handy to where we lived so...”

So, the rest is history. That dabble has taken the young psychology and business student all the way from the tide off The Strand in Tauranga to a man-made canal at Plovdiv, an hour and a half out of the Bulgarian capital Sofia and the World Under-23 Rowing championships.

“We get prognostics – a measure of your results against the world under-23 records and I am in the mid 90 per cent of the world best times. I am in a good place, I am quite happy.”

Now 20, Courtney has been a long way and come a long way since giving it a go – many hours and many kilometres on the water with unwavering focus and determination.

“I am feeling quite confident about an A Final and that’s a good start.” But a medal would be nice.

Courtney was talking to The Weekend Sun on the pontoon at Lake Karapiro – rowing’s high performance centre. The country was still waking up but Courtney was already glowing from an hour and forty minute workout on the water.

“Just a light one ‘cause we are packing this afternoon and leave tomorrow.”

She pulls her rowing shell from the water and heaves it onto broad shoulders.

It wasn’t an untypical morning – the lightweight single sculler rises at 5.30am, cycles 20 minutes from Leamington to Karapiro and is on the water by 6.45am for two hours. A second session that day could be weights in the gym or another shorter outing on the water.

Every day, six days a week for three months. “Not much time for anything else,” laughs Courtney. “Just some part-time study.”

The Tauranga Rowing Club has four members representing New Zealand – Courtney, Jordan Parry and Charlie Rogerson in the under 23s, and Grace Holland in the juniors to Lithuania – the highest representation of any club in New Zealand.

Jordan is a veteran of under 23s and having his last outing. “We are competitive. We are starting on a stronger footing than previously. We can just go for it, go for gold.”

The slightly senior oarsman had some advice for Courtney – a rope for a washing line and a euro power adaptor.

“But she had everything planned, nothing I could help with.”

Charlie is in the mens’ eight. “Going pretty solid, good k’s under the belt and I hope that’s translates into a good result.” Excited but nervous is the big man’s take.

The crews are now acclimatising in Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city, before rowing starts July 19.


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