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University Rowing Club an international powerhouse

Team rowing
Otago University Senior Men’s Eight crew dig deep in a regatta against Saint Petersburg State University (from left) Coxswain Sachin Arulambalam, Mitchell Horner, Corey McAffrey, Andrew Potter, Mark O’Connor, Adrian Riepen, Bryce Abernethy and Elliot Harvey. The crew was coached by Justin Evans

“It’s the thing you do at Otago - give rowing a go.”

A rowing regatta between the University of Otago and Russia’s Saint Petersburg State University is set to become an annual event as Otago cements itself as an international rowing powerhouse.

Saint Petersburg’s Men’s Eight crew travelled to Otago in September to participate in a tri-series event on Otago Harbour and Lake Hayes in Queenstown.

The return series will see the Otago Men’s Eight travel to Russia in 2014 to compete for the trophy that has been dubbed: “The University Cup: Rowing at the ends of the Earth”.

Otago University Rowing Club’s manager Glen Sinclair says the club hopes to make it an annual event, adding to the already classy calendar of international rowing regattas that Otago University crews participate in.

Otago’s success both nationally and on the international circuit makes it a club sought after by other international teams who want to compete against Otago rowers (Link to: Rowers take on the world, Otago Connection 2012).

International rowing jet-setter

Team rowing2
Otago University Senior Men’s Eight crew dig deep in a regatta against Saint Petersburg State University (back, from left) Coxswain Sachin Arulambalam, Mitchell Horner (obscured) Corey McAffrey, Andrew Potter (obscured) Mark O’Connor, Adrian Riepen, Bryce Abernethy and Elliot Harvey (out of view). The crew was coached by Justin Evans

A talented single scull rower in his secondary school days at James Hargest College in Invercargill, Mark (22) was drafted into the Men’s Senior Eight in his first year at University.

Since then he’s helped the crew continue to dominate at the New Zealand Universities Rowing Championships, which Otago has won for the past 14 consecutive years.

Mark’s also been lucky enough to attend three international regattas in China and one in Russia as well as participating in an annual tri-series against Australian universities.

“They are great trips because they have the balance between understanding you are a student and a high performance athlete - we do go over there [to international regattas] to compete.”

‘It’s the thing you do’

Team rowing3
Men’s Eight crew member Mark O’Connor has been a member of the club since arriving at University in 2009 and opportunities such as the Saint Petersburg series have resulted in him becoming somewhat of an international jet-setter.

Mr Sinclair does not put the Rowing Club’s success down to any single factor, rather a combination of different systems that have been put in place over the years.

For example, the Otago University Students’ Association Aquatics Centre is a fantastic facility in which to train, but it’s also about the people, he says.

“We have just got fantastic students here, who don’t necessarily believe Friday and Saturday nights are for drinking; they are down here training five mornings a week.

“It’s the thing you do at Otago - give rowing a go.”

Over the past year, 226 students have given rowing a go - from first-year students participating in the College Eights’ Regatta - to the 120 athletes who train year-round and the smaller high-performance squad.

Mark, who has this year completed his Bachelor of Surveying Degree, says he’s had plenty of opportunities, including a trial for the New Zealand Elite and Under 23 teams.

Next year he begins his surveying career in Invercargill, but plans to continue rowing and is seriously considering taking on a coaching role.

“Once you get into it, it’s easy to get hooked - just the team environment and finding like-minded people.”