Rowers just thankful to make Maadi Cup after overcoming hurdles

Fri, Mar 31

Maadi Cup is the pinnacle of high school rowing but for some areas, the achievement lies in just being there.

At opposite ends of the country, Gisborne Boys' High School and Twizel Area School faced different challenges ahead of this week's Maadi Cup but both had the same goal — getting there.

For Gisborne Boys' and their coach Joshua Kelly, it seemed like a long shot this year after Cyclone Gabrielle washed away their gear.

"I was just heartbroken," Kelly told 1News.

"I did not expect that much water and silt to the top of the sheds."

It was just as tough a sight for students such as Lucky Goel, with months of training seemingly going to waste.

"The first two weeks after the cyclone we didn't do anything because we were so infatuated with cleaning up and shovelling hard and working in other places in distribution centres," Goel said.

But that's when the rowing community rallied together, helping find equipment for Gisborne to compete with.

"We were really uncertain if we would even make it out here to start with because of all the road closures and the fact we lost so many boats, we didn't know what we would even race with," Goel said.

"But we were grateful for all the support and the all the manaakitanga [generosity] that has been shown to us from all clubs."

Meanwhile down in the deep south, Twizel faced a different issue.

The area is the heart of South Island rowing but for the past few years, the club has had only one athlete — a statistic Twizel rowing coach Kelvin Maker simply couldn't believe.

"I said, 'you're right here on the lake, it seems crazy, you've got everything going your way here in terms of accommodation and travel and all those costs — you don't have any of those'," Maker said.

So Maker organised an open day six months ago to rally the troops and he did just that with the squad now growing to 12.

But don't be mistaken — they don't just make up the numbers.

At the South Island Rowing Championships in January, Twizel picked up multiple podium finishes making Maadi Cup a sudden possibility after it was initially far from their radars.

"All of a sudden, we started to see some results and away we went — I couldn't believe it," Maker said.

With no money to spare, the call went out.

"We just put it over to the community and said, 'can we?' and whoosh — in it all came. It was outstanding."

With a community behind them, Twizel's next hurdle was accommodation.

With everything in the region booked, some last-minute calls helped them find a place to stay — the floor of Waikato Rowing Club.

But as they have so far already, the rowers have taken it in their stride — something Gisborne Boys' know all too well too.

"It's an achievement within itself even coming up here," Goel said.

"Even if we don't get medals, it's just amazing that the whole team is here and we get to be here."


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