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Chasing gold . . . Hundreds of rowers will be competing for gold medals at the national rowing championships at Lake Ruataniwha. Pictured is a scene from Lake Ruataniwha at last year's Maadi Cup. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

by Chris Tobin

Twizel is set to boom again as the New Zealand rowing championships are due to be held in the town next week from February 19 to 23.

Twizel Community Board member Paul Hannagan said the town’s population swelled from its usual 1400 to 17,000 over the Christmas-New Year period.

“Over New Year, you had to wait half an hour in the queue at the supermarket to get served.”

Since then, the town has been busy with a constant flow of tourists and freedom campers and things spiked again with Chinese New Year last week.

Next comes the rowing, which Mr Hannagan said would not be quite as big as the secondary schools’ Maadi Cup competition but numbers would still be large.

More than 760 rowers from 49 clubs have entered the championships and with support crews added to these figures, the number of people in the town will again swell significantly.

“Every third house in our street is empty at the moment but that will change; they’ll be full; the rowing livens up the neighbourhood.”

He said hosting the national championships was huge for the town and accommodation would be hard to find.

He knew in the past rowers had been forced to stay as far away as Fairlie and drive to Lake Ruataniwha to compete.

Veteran . . . Double Olympic Games sculling champion Mahe Drysdale, pictured after his 2012 Olympic gold medal race in London, has another Olympics in his sights. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Among the leading rowers competing will be double Olympic single sculls champion Mahe Drysdale, who is expected to clash with the 2017 national single sculls champion Robbie Manson.

Last year, Manson beat Drysdale in a race-off to decide who would represent New Zealand in the single sculls at the world championships in Bulgaria.

Former world champion sculler Emma Twigg has come out of retirement and will compete, her goal being to represent New Zealand at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Anna Williams, of Rowing NZ, said the main aim for elite rowers and those hoping to be selected for the 2019 elite team at the championships was to win a small boat class event.

“As well as that, they want to gain further racing experience to help prepare for the international season ahead.”

She said Lake Ruataniwha was well loved in the rowing community, and while travel for North Island rowers took a lot of planning and preparation, the regatta was hosted at alternate lakes each year so South Island competitors faced the same challenges on alternate years.

“Rowing clubs are very experienced in travelling with large teams and a considerable amount of equipment.

“The North Island rowers will be looking forward to heading south.”

Trevor Wilson, of South Island Rowing, which is hosting the event, said several Australian officials would be attending the championships to adjudicate and a special legacy dinner was planned to commemorate rowers who had represented New Zealand at the Olympic, British Empire and Commonwealth Games as well as world championships.

This has been ongoing with the rowers or their families being awarded special commemorative medals.

“The medallions are all numbered and last year the four from the Oamaru Rowing Club, which won at the 1962 Commonwealth Games, received their medals.

“It was special, all the crew apart from the coxswain are still alive.”

A total of 77 events will be raced at the championships. The largest number of entries is 34 in the men’s intermediate singles sculls.

Five days of racing includes three days of finals – Thursday, February 21, Friday and Saturday.