Boys’ High pair to compete in Canada

Working hard . . . Ben Allan, left, and Payo O’Sullivan, both 17, get in some practice on Saltwater Creek. PHOTO: CONNOR HALEY

A pair of Timaru Boys’ High School rowers have earned the opportunity to sink their oars into Canadian water in August.

Ben Allan and Payo O’Sullivan have been selected as part of the Rowing New Zealand under-19 squad to compete at this year’s World Rowing Senior, Under-23 and Under-19 Championships in St Catharines, Ontario.

Only eight boys from New Zealand were selected for their particular event.

The rowers had to attend an intense trial at the Karāpiro Rowing complex to secure their spot.

O’Sullivan said he had no idea what to expect from the trial.

‘‘You look at a lot of the people at the trial and I’m the smallest on the boat.

‘‘You kind of have a few doubts but it’s all [about] how you perform.

‘‘It was pretty brutal. One sort of bad performance and you could stuff yourself up pretty badly, so you just had to go 100% all the time.’’

Allan said it was always a goal to make the team but he never pictured it would be this year.

‘‘Everyone is just so good. The talent at the trials was unreal — the top talent of New Zealand was all there.

‘‘It’s pretty tough but I knew we had a chance. We know we’re pretty good.’’

The trial started with a 2km erg test to benchmark the rowers and then the next three days were spent racing on the water in different combinations.

The result of the trial was given out on the final day.

It was a nervous morning for all, O’Sullivan said.

‘‘They announced the team and I straight away called Mum and Dad to tell them I’d made it.

‘‘It was actually a bit of a relief. Everyone was sitting there all morning waiting to hear.’’

They will be competing as part of the eight, an event they are not all used to.

They tried to have a go this season, Allan said.

‘‘It didn’t go too well — it’s hard to find eight good rowers.

‘‘We probably only had eight or nine seniors all up. If you want to make a good eight you probably want 16 people.

It would be a good new challenge, O’Sullivan said.

‘‘We had a training camp in Twizel and the coach will ask you how the boat is feeling.

‘‘You have to be able to communicate why it is or isn’t [feeling good], so it’s just learning how to make the boat feel good.

‘‘Rowing in an eight is a lot different than rowing in a pair which is what me and Ben are usually rowing in at the moment.

‘‘It’s just another learning curve to figure out but we can handle it.’’

It was quite uncommon for two people from the same school to make the eight.

‘‘It’s pretty mean — especially from a place like Timaru Boys’ compared to other schools.

‘‘It’s also good to have a training partner. It makes a huge difference having someone to push off.’’

Winning form . . . Timaru Boys’ High School rowers (from left) Finn Gollins, O’Sullivan, Luke Tompkins, Mac Brown and Allan, all now 17, finish an under-16 coxed four race last year. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

The competition in Canada would be great fun, he said.

‘‘First we get eight weeks off school.

‘‘That’s going to be good fun.

‘‘We’ll be training for six weeks in Karāpiro, so we’ll be staying in the boarding house at St Peter’s in Cambridge.

‘‘Canada will be a really cool experience, especially with everyone else from all the other countries.’’

Allan was looking forward to representing the country on an international stage.

‘‘It’s going to be so exciting rowing for your country.

‘‘When you’re at the start line you won’t look beside you and see another school, it’ll be another country. It’ll be a whole different level of racing.’’

O’ Sullivan put a lot of their success down to the work of TBHS rowing coach Brian Smith.

‘‘Brian is a legend, he’s just awesome. The crew we’ve got is relatively small and everyone is just a good bunch.

‘‘We all put in the effort and it’s really good to have a crew around you that wants it.

‘‘The commentator at Maadi [Cup] called Timaru Boys’ ‘The Dogs’ and I think that really reflects that attitude we’ve had instilled of just keep going until it’s done.’’

Allan would love to get the Olympics but acknowledged there was still a long way to go.

‘‘It’s hard to tell at the moment. We’ll just see how it goes.

‘‘I want to keep going. The Olympics is the ultimate goal but you can’t really think about that yet.’’

O’Sullivan was of a similar mindset.

‘‘There’s a lot of time between the Olympics. When we were out there, though, they did say they were targeting our age group for the Brisbane Olympics.

‘‘Obviously that’s a long way away so you’ve got to set goals between that.

‘‘Winning a senior or premier event at the New Zealand nationals would be good.

‘‘We’re still eligible again for the under-19 team next year so we’ll probably try for that again, but we’ll have to have a good club season next year.’’

O’Sullivan and Allan are training nine times a week over six days to prepare.

The regatta will take place from August 18-25 and the pair will begin their training at Karāpiro on June 23.