23 Mar 2013

New Zealand rowing coach slams Sydney World Cup

9:21 am on 23 March 2013

New Zealand rowing coach Noel Donaldson has told his former Australian team to get its priorities right after farcical opening-day scenes at the Sydney World Cup.

World rowing's noble attempt to globalise the sport fell flat at Penrith Lakes on Friday due to embarrassingly-low fields which were reduced even further when the host nation withdrew two crews.

With almost all leading European nations ignoring the first World Cup to be held in the Southern Hemisphere, entries were down to three and four boats in some categories.

But the most disappointing race was in Australia's most-revered boat class - the men's four - when both local boats were withdrawn from a race-for-lanes heat to leave just two crews - Great Britain and New Zealand - on the course.

Josh Dunkley-Smith, Josh Booth, James Chapman and Will Lockwood - three of the four who won silver at the London Olympics - instead saved themselves for the final of the national championships, which is being run in conjunction with the World Cup, in the afternoon.

They won the national title in a tight final but Donaldson, who coached the famed Oarsome Foursome to back-to-back Olympic gold medals in 1992 and 1996, criticised the decision to pull out of the top-level event.

Organising committee chief John Boultbee described it as a "magnificent festival" but admitted they would review scheduling issues ahead of a bigger World Cup in 2014.

Rowing's major sponsor, Samsung, had offered to pay the way for the leading 150 rowers from the 2012 Olympics but very few medallists took up the offer outside of the sizeable British and American teams.

Only three boats entered the men's quad, ensuring the Australian, Kiwi and British crews - who raced for lanes on Friday - will all win medals in Sunday's final.

Donaldson, who only linked with New Zealand last month, said the lack of European entries undermined FISA's admirable plans to broaden the base of the sport.