Kiwi Olympic gold medalists Shaun Kirkham and Tom Mackintosh have made history for Toyota-Boshoku at the All-Japan rowing championships.


The pair have helped their adopted club to its first ever eights title in the 101st edition of the championships.

It’s thought Shaun and Tom are the first Kiwis to be contracted as coach/rowers in Japan and yesterday they overturned a season-long deficit to beat favourites NTT in the final race of the nationals in Tokyo.

It’s just under two years since the pair helped the Kiwi eight win Olympic gold at the same course.

Toyota’s win is even more remarkable given the lead-up to the final. After winning their heat on Thursday, stroke Minoro Tsuge was off to hospital with Covid-19. For a while it looked like their hopes of a first win were over because the squad had no reserve.

They even considered trying to row the final with seven men.

Minoro looked like he was on the up by Saturday and the boys managed to get an erg to his hospital room that afternoon.

By Sunday he was good to go although just how much he had in the tank was a mystery.

Shaun’s full of admiration for him, getting the boat down to the finish in 5:39.04.

When the Kiwis arrived at Toyota the crew was around 10-seconds down on NTT, but it was a complete turnaround yesterday, Toyota sneaking in front after 500 metres and extending throughout the race to win by ¾ of a length.

It was a huge moment for the club where all the rowers are employed at the giant multi-national corporation.


Shaun and Tom had said before the race that they were focusing on trying to win for the crew rather than their own personal ambitions. The reaction after the race said it all, the Japanese rowers almost overwhelmed by their historic victory.


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.

Drop Andy a line or give him a call if you have any rowing related story ideas: 021381124