Christmas came early for Jamie Hindle-Daniels when in mid-December he was awarded both a Prime Minister’s Scholarship for 2024, and a Prime Minister’s Scholarship internship.
The scholarship itself pays for a year’s university fees and comes with an allowance from High Performance Sport New Zealand, while the internship will give Jamie the chance to get some work experience related to his interest in international relations.
The awards cap a big year for Jamie, coming only a few months after he graduated from the University of Canterbury in August, and as he builds towards the selection period for the men’s quad for the Olympics.
But Jamie is the first to admit that it’s been a long journey to get where he is now.
“Only a few years ago, there was no way I would have thought about trying to get to the Olympics.
“I finished my school rowing career in 2017 and I think my greatest achievement might have been winning the C Final of the Under-16 quad at Maadi, or something like that.
“I was starting to wonder why I was still slugging away at this sport that I wasn’t particularly good at. But I just enjoyed getting out on the water and I kept training and started wondering how far I could take it.”
After moving to Christchurch for university, Jamie found his way into the Southern RPC winter training group and subsequently the Central RPC squad. After previous seasons spent braving Wellington Harbour, the consistent water time in Blenheim helped him make major improvements and he got a trial for the New Zealand Under-23s in 2019.
“Let’s just say it was a pretty humbling experience. I got absolutely smoked. I think I lost every on-water race we had. The other guys were miles ahead, which made me realise what sort of level I needed to be at to row for New Zealand.
“Pretty much every single day I thought to myself “this isn’t going to happen; I’m not good enough”. And because I was new to that sort of competition, I didn’t really have any other results to fall back on to reassure myself I had what it takes.”
“Sure enough, I missed selection but if there was a silver lining, it was that the trials helped me clarify what my goals actually were, and made me realise that was what I wanted to do.
After another season training with Central RPC, Jamie trialled again and was selected for the men’s quad for the 2020 Under-23 World Championships, scheduled for Bled in Slovenia.
“I remember everyone saying it was the best place to row and it was a great year to get selected. Then a month later we were all in lockdown, the World Champs had been cancelled, and I was erging twice a day in a garage.
“It was pretty devastating. After my experiences the previous year it felt like a real loss, and to this day it’s pretty disappointing it didn’t get to happen. Our quad could have done alright. But really, what happened to us wasn’t much different to what everyone else in the world was going through with the COVID lockdowns.
“In a way, having a weekly training plan to follow gave that period a bit of structure. And I was grateful I was where I was, with my mates, in the flat in Christchurch – we had a lot of fun, just making the best of it.
Jamie (top right) with his flatmates in Christchurch, who he credits with keeping him sane during lockdown training.
Jamie finally made his debut for New Zealand in the quad at the 2022 senior World Championships.
While the crew didn’t get the results they were looking for, Jamie said just making it to the regatta was pretty special.
“I really had to pinch myself, after several years of not quite getting there. Even though we didn’t perform as well as we could have, I learned so much from the experience. Just walking past these rowing legends and seeing how they go about their work was really valuable.
Jamie’s focus for the next few months is to get selected again for the quad and then qualify the boat for the Olympics at Lucerne in April. But at some point after that, he’ll start planning how he’ll use the Prime Minister’s Scholarship and internship.
“I’m keen to do an honours year in international relations, which the scholarship will help pay for, and then the internship will help me get some work experience in the field.
Jamie graduated in August 2023 and is planning a post-rowing career in international relations.
“It’s quite free-form as to how the internship will work but I’d like to spend some time at places like the Ministry for Foreign Affairs or New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, getting some practical experience in diplomacy.
“It’ll be a great chance to see what makes different countries tick, and how they relate to each other. Ultimately, I’d like to work somewhere like the United Nations, and see how I can make a difference in the world.”
Andrew Smith is a keen Masters rower based in Wellington. A member of Wellington Rowing Club off and on since 2000, he spends more time on the erg than the water, trying to convince himself he's still young.