A couple of U23 trialists find different motivations for their single sculls medals at NZ Rowing Championships

Plenty of people have tried to analyse Dick Tonks’ coaching method over the years.
Oscar Ruston has come up with possibly the most brilliantly succinct description yet.
“I feel like it mainly focuses on how the boat's moving rather than how we are moving,” says Oscar.

Obviously the long miles helped physiologically but there was a technical benefit too from all that distance work when your focus was on the boat.

“Throughout those rows we wouldn't really get much technique coaching. It would just be a lot about boat feel and watching the stern and all that stuff,” he says. “It holds us accountable, which is good, because no one else is going to tell us you know, so we have to tell ourselves.”

Few words were needed to describe Oscar’s win in the Men’s Under 22 Single Sculls Final at NZ Champs on the first day of finals.
He wasn’t wasting any either.

“Stoked,” would have done it if he’d not been pushed for a bit more description.
“There's also just a feeling of relief, I just felt like I had a job to do and I, you know, did what I had to do.” Oscar left everyone in his wash from around the 500m mark. It was four lengths at the 1000 and the gap didn’t close.

He finished in 6.55.40.

“I think I was like 12 seconds off the Under 23 world record. So yeah. I think I’m in a pretty good position at the moment.”
Pretty good alright, especially if you take the 6.46.61 of Germany’s Hubert Trzybinski in 2011 as the benchmark. That’s now nine seconds.

Ruston has already proven he’s a machine. Who else gets a late injury call-up to the Under 23 Worlds in Bulgaria, flies the 30-hour return leg straight after to hop into the Under 21 crews against Australia the morning after arriving home.

He’s determined this year to be onboard the 23s bus right from the start.

He reckons the trials next week should demand even more of the athletes than this week’s racing.

“I kind of hope so...for me personally, I’d like the standard of New Zealand rowing to get back to where we were so dominant in Tokyo at the Olympics. That's the level I want to be striving for, even at under 23, just to be dominant. I don't want to have any regrets in my rowing career, so I want to treat every campaign as a winning one.”

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OSCAR RUSTON (WAIKATO ROWING CLUB) AFTER WINNING THE U22 single sculls at the 2024 NZ Rowing championships. Photo: Picture Show Ltd

Waikato’s Finn Hamill, a silver medallist in the Lightweight Single Sculls at last year’s Under 23 World Championships, was second in 7.02.55 and 19-year-old Jack Pearson was third in 7.03.04.

Jack’s time was also getting a big reaction from the tight-knit group at Dunstan Arm RC.

The 19-year-old out of John McGlashan College was a bit overwhelmed.

“I never thought coming into this I'd be in a position like that. Like, this is the first of three years in the Under 23 age group. I thought it would take me all three of those years to be up there like I was. I'm just in tears after that race.”

My mum and dad have been incredibly supportive of my rowing, helping me through university while I'm still training, moving up to Dunstan every summer. Financially, I couldn't do that by myself. I owe a lot of it to my family and the boys from Dunstan."

“That's not just my medal, that's all of our medals.”

Even grandad Richard has been playing a part. “You know the iconic Dunstan bucket hats? Well, I gave one to him for Christmas and every race he's in front of the TV wearing it watching the live stream. When I'm in a race I just picture him wearing that bucket hat cheering me on.”


Jack Pearson from Dunstan Arm Rowing Club racing in the U22 single sculls heat at the 2024 NZ Rowing Championships. Photo: Sharron Bennett Photography 

If you think that’s dedication, what about Angus Kenny’s fan base? He finished sixth in the final.

There was hometown support from his Nana Cave who runs the pub in Half Moon Bay on Stewart Island. His mum Kath’s the principal of the local primary school so the pair of them watched the race from there.

His sister Meg was watching the livestream from a chair lift at the skifield she works on in Banff, Canada. His other sister, Caity, works at a skifield in Norway and she was tuned in too.

Rowers getting plenty of reach on the water and around the world on day three of the 2024 NZ Rowing Championships.


Andy Hay

Andy Hay is a freelance producer, writer and rowing coach. He was cox of the world champion New Zealand eight of 1982 and '83. He is NZ Olympian #446.