by Chris Tobin
By rights, Emma Dyke should be in Japan, rowing for an Olympic gold medal this month but the Covid-19 pandemic has obliterated that hope.
However, Dyke (25) had some compensation this week.
While staying with her grandparents, Joy and Brian Hutchins, in Timaru, the Timaru Rowing Club member and former Craighead Diocesan School pupil dropped into Sport Canterbury’s Timaru office to check out the South Canterbury sportsperson of the year award she received last month.
Because of Covid-19, the awards had to be livestreamed online.
At the time, Dyke was at her training base in Cambridge, so she was relishing the opportunity to get her hands on the trophy for the first time.
“It was a surprise,” she said of winning the award.
“I never thought I’d win and I’m really pleased to get my photo taken with it for the first time.”
Dyke beat some some formidable competition to lift the trophy.
The contenders included former New Zealand supreme sportsperson of the year shot putter Tom Walsh, cyclists Holly Edmondston, Dylan Kennett and Shane Archbold, rising rugby star Cullen Grace and world champion blade shearer Allan Oldfield.
The award recognised Dyke’s part in the New Zealand women’s rowing eight which won the World Rowing Championships at Linz Ottensheim, Austria last year.
The eight made history in the event, becoming the first New Zealand women’s crew to achieve the feat.
The result made them favourites to take the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo Bay this month.
They had been showing great form heading towards the Olympics.
“We were definitely in a better spot this year than last year.
“We were into the home stretch when the Games were postponed.
“It was sad, gutting really, but there was nothing you could do.
“It was the only option they [Olympic organisers] had.
“The rest of the world was in strife because of coronavirus.”
The disappointment was made more acute due to Dyke and the women’s eight placing fourth at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, missing out on the bronze medal by just over a second.
While the women’s eight had been favoured for Tokyo gold, Dyke said nothing could be taken for granted.
“Because of the Olympics you never really know and they are so different to the World Cup.
“Countries pour in so much money to do well in this event.”
The squad of 10 would now focus on next year, when the Olympics hopefully would go ahead.
She was staying positive.
“We’re looking at another year to be stronger and faster.”
To make that achievable, the tough grind of training continued, rowing from 100km to 250km a week interspersed with weight-training sessions.