Eyes set on elite rowing

Winning ways . . . Elsie Talbot (left) and Freddy Todhunter celebrate their win in the senior double sculls at this year’s nationals. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED

The latest round of Aspect Trust scholarships have been announced, and four leading South Canterbury athletes have received a financial boost towards their global sporting goals. This week, Courier reporter Connor Haley catches up with the final athlete, rising rowing star Elsie Talbot.

After an oar-inspiring start to the year, South Canterbury rower Elsie Talbot has no intention of slowing down.

This year alone, the 18-yearold has already notched up two full national title wins (women’s premier coxed eight and women’s senior double sculls) — medalled in three other events and earned selection for the New Zealand under-21 team.

Talbot has also been named the recipient of an Aspect Trust Leading Athlete Scholarship.

Her rowing career first began as a year 9 pupil at Craighead Diocesan School, after she picked up the sport for something to do over summer.

‘‘I thought it would be something fun to give a go with my friends.

‘‘There was a pretty good programme and I had seen that quite a few people went on to represent New Zealand, so I thought why not.

‘‘I saw that it was a lot of work and it was something that took up a lot of time but would be rewarding.’’

It was not until a few years in that the rowing bug really took hold.

‘‘I probably really started to enjoy it when I started my under-16 season especially after Maadi [Cup] got cancelled my first season.

‘‘I came back wanting to give it another crack and each year I just built from there.

‘‘I was just wanting to improve after every Maadi.’’

Talbot said this season had been one of her most enjoyable to date.

‘‘I’ve really enjoyed this season. It was really good getting to row with some of my friends that I’d met over my past four years rowing.

‘‘The highlight was finishing second with my Dunstan quad in the premier quad.

‘‘That was pretty awesome because I got to train with them all season. Winning the premier eight was also pretty great.

‘‘It was a surreal experience getting to sit behind some very good rowers like Emma Twigg. I was bit star-struck but it was very fun.’’

For now she said she was focused on continuing her work with Rowing New Zealand.

‘‘I definitely want to keep on going with Rowing NZ, I’m currently on the training camp with the under-21 squad.

‘‘I just want to keep going on the Rowing NZ pathway and hopefully one day row for the elite team.

‘‘There’s a lot of work to do to get there but that’s the ultimate goal if everything goes to plan.’’

Full speed ahead . . . Elsie Talbot (left) and Freddy Todhunter compete in the under-22 doubles.

After missing out on the under-19 New Zealand squad last year, she said that having that disappointment really helped her with making the under-21s this year.

‘‘Looking back I’m kind of glad it happened.

‘‘It allowed me to take some time off and it kept me pretty hungry for this season.

‘‘It really solidified my goal of making that [under] 21 team. I think the disappointment gave me that little bit extra I needed to make it this year.’’

Talbot is training in Canberra, Australia to take part in the 2024 U21 Pacific Regatta at the beginning of June.

She will be racing 3km in the eight, a 1.8km heat and final in the quad and then again in the eight for another 1.8km race.

Usually the races would be 2km long but with the competition shifting from Sydney to Canberra they were shortened.

She said she could not wait to get out on the water.

‘‘We’ve been training since the end of February. I’ve been training in Dunstan and Karapiro and it’s pretty exciting that’s it’s all coming together and now we get to race soon.’’

It will be a busy few months for the rising rowing star.

After returning from the under-21 campaign, Talbot will be off to the United States in August to attend Washington State University on a rowing scholarship.

She said the Aspect Trust Scholarship had been a huge help for this upcoming under-21 campaign.

‘‘The scholarship has fully covered this entire campaign for me which has been a very big help.

‘‘Without that help I would have had to work a lot more hours and not having to do that has allowed me focus a lot more on my training.

‘‘I’ve been able to put a lot more effort in to do as well as I can in Australia. I’m really grateful for the support and I’m very thankful for it.’’

She said she was also thankful to all her friends and coaches that had got her to this point and was looking forward to seeing what her future in the sport held.