Single sculler Emma Twigg is set to become one of New Zealand’s most enduring Olympians


Tokyo Olympic Champion Emma Twigg has qualified the boat for the Paris Summer Games on day six of the World Rowing Championships. Her fifth Olympic qualification – a significant achievement.

“It’s amazing... [it could be] number five for me so I’m pretty chuffed with that. If somebody had told me when I was at my first I’d be doing five I’d probably have laughed at them.”

More pressing for Twigg right now will be seeing how fast she can go in the A Final just before 1am on Monday morning (NZT).

There was huge anticipation to see how Twigg would go in her semifinal against current world champion Karolien Florijn from the Netherlands. Florijn has not been beaten in the event for two years but Twigg, the defending Olympic champion, believes she is making inroads. “I feel like I’ve kind of been chipping away and finding my form gradually, she says.”

Hawke’s  Bay Rowing Club athlete maintained a close second to Florijn through to the 1500m mark by which time both scullers were assured of their place in the final. Florijn finished in 7min 29.07secs ahead of Twigg (7.33.92). Bulgaria claimed the other finals spot.

The second semifinal was much slower by comparison, the USA’s Kara Kohler winning in 7:44.66, although conditions on the Ada Ciganlija course were shifty.

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Emma twigg racing in the women's single sculls semifinals at the 2023 World Rowing Champs. Photo: Art of Rowing. 

It turned into a great day for the Hawke’s Bay club, with Thomas Mackintosh claiming a spot in the Men’s Single Sculls A Final on Monday morning (12:25am NZT), and also qualifying the boat for Paris.

Mackintosh has only been rowing seriously in the single since June but is clearly enjoying the challenge.

“New Zealand obviously has a lot of prestige and history in the single scull with the likes of your Mahé Drysdales and Rob Waddells, so while I’m still yet to race at the Olympics in this boat class it’s a real privilege to say that I’ve qualified this boat.”

He’s a very real medal prospect in two days' time after leading his semifinal to the 1800m mark where he was overtaken by the Dutch and then Danish scullers.

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Tom Mackintosh racing at the 2023 World rowing championship men's single sculls semifinal. Photo: Art of rowing

Returning mums Lucy Spoors and Brooke Francis are also on track to make an Olympics return. Both were silver medallists at Tokyo, Spoors in the Women’s Eight and Francis in the Double Sculls.

Francis has made a career out of rowing the double since being captivated by the Evers-Swindell twins. The boat is like a second home to her.

The New Zealanders showed their class and rowed a controlled race to maintain third position throughout and secure the Olympics spot and will now race for a medal just before midnight on Sunday (NZT).

The new combination of Robbie Manson and Ben Mason just missed out on an A-Final spot after finishing fourth in their semifinal of the Men’s Double Sculls. They finished just over three seconds behind the crew from Spain who had enjoyed more sheltered water on the inside lane.

Manson and Mason will be back though in the B Final on Sunday (9.30pm NZT). They will qualify the boat for Paris with a top-five finish in the six-boat field.

Rachael Kennedy finished 3rd in the C Final of the Lightweight Women’s Single Sculls and Finn Hamill reluctantly withdrew from the D Final of the Lightweight Men’s Single Sculls after battling the effects of Covid.


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.