By Dave Goosselink
Otago University's top rowers are preparing to head to China to defend the men's eights title they won there a year ago.
Otago will compete against top university crews from the likes of Princeton, Brown and London.
It may be tough getting out of bed early on a cold Dunedin morning, but Otago's heavyweight eight have some strong motivation.
They want to retain the international university rowing title they won last year, beating high profile teams from Sydney, Trinity College and Yale.
"Just went over there blind, we had no idea how we were going, who was turning up, what sort of racing we were doing," says Alistair Bond, "but yeah, we just turned up and did what we were told and yep we won, it was great."
Bond - brother of world champion rower Hamish Bond - is in his third year at Otago, and used to juggling studies with training on the water.
Half of last year's winning team are back. They've been getting up a sweat inside the phys ed school's heat chamber, with 40degC temperatures and 70 percent humidity designed to acclimatise themselves to Beijing's summer conditions.
"The race is only six minutes, so by the time we get out on the water and come down the track, you know we're not going to die during the race - we'll just die after so it'll be okay," says Mark O'Connor.
O'connor's leading from the front this year as a senior strokemaker, and says for him rowing's much more than just a hobby.
"I take it very seriously, you know. Most of us in this group, you know we're in a high performance centre, we want to go all the way."
That attitude's impressed new head coach Grant Craies, who's spent 15 years coaching in the UK, including three at the prestigious Cambridge University.
"They're pretty motivated, they know what's at stake, you know they want to defend their title."
The Olympic course in Beijing will be their first stop when the team fly out later this week.
source: newshub archive