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Kiwis rowers ready for Rio

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 28/07/2016 Daniel Gilhooly

It used to be that barely a head would turn as New Zealand's rowers arrived at an international regatta.

When 11 Kiwi crews rock up at the Rio Olympics, a different complexion will settle over the sheds lining the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon.

Decorated oarsman Hamish Bond says the landscape has shifted from when he first wore a black singlet 10 years ago.

Back then, twins Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell and sculler Mahe Drysdale waved the flag, but with only sporadic support.

"Now when we turn up, we're the sort of Ferrari or Red Bull. We're a team to be noted," Bond told NZ Newswire.

"There's nothing said or anything from the other teams, it's just a vibe."

Sheer weight of results and burgeoning depth suggest Rowing NZ is doing something right at its Lake Karapiro base.

A long-stated Rio goal of five medals appears conservative given their dominant displays since the London Olympics, when they won three golds and two bronze.

New Zealand have routinely topped medal tables since, notably at last year's world championships and then again at the recent World Cup regatta in Poland when all but one of the Rio-bound crews climbed the dais - half of them to the top platform.

Bond and Murray were among the winners, leaving them the hottest of favourites to defend their men's pair crown and add to the eighth world championships titles claimed together.

They have marvelled at the quality of other Kiwi crews which have formed since 2012, defying those who believed the London Games would be a high-water mark.

Youthful men's and women's eights have blossomed. Their best probably won't be seen until 2020 yet both have emerged as contenders in August.

The women's big boat will make an Olympic debut while the men are there for the first time in 32 years.

Bond says the eights represent tangible proof that New Zealand are now rowing's world leaders, having advanced from a focus on small boats.

"It's a success-breeds-success sort of model," he said.

"But it's a tough school. The young guys in the men's eight can see what Eric and I do on a daily basis.

"We pace against them and it hits them in the face. If you're getting it thrown down on you that you're not good enough, then you're not good enough."

Joining the men's pair as favourite to defend Olympic gold is evergreen single sculler Mahe Drysdale.

Women's single Emma Twigg's campaign will be fascinating, having taken last year off following an unbeaten 2014, but will need to overcome Australian world champion Kim Brennan.

Every other crew is a viable chance, including the late addition of the men's quad, with their success on a polluted stretch of water in central Rio set to have a major impact on the size of New Zealand's overall Olympic haul.

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