A Pair of Kiwis Win the Hearts of Boston

New Zealander Emma Twigg is the featured athlete on this year's HOCR banners.

By Adam Anticaglia | Published on October 20, 2013

As New Zealand rowers Emma Twigg and Mahé Drysdale glided across the Charles River on Saturday afternoon, you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that the Kiwis were native Bostonians.

Both competitors received some of the loudest cheers all day from the crowds on the banks of the Charles as they rowed past in their races, a true testament to the respect that the supporters have towards the lovable Kiwis.

“I love this Regatta because it’s an opportunity that anyone can come and race,” Drysdale said. “You’ve got world and Olympic champions out there from all different boats, people I don’t get to usually race, so it’s great to have that challenge and that’s one of the unique things about this regatta, and it’s what makes it really enjoyable.”

A regular at the Regatta, Drysdale loves Boston. “Boston is just a beautiful city,” he said. “The people are fantastic, they’re so hospitable, I think, really, to be honest, that is actually what makes it, is the people and the scenery as well is pretty awesome.”

Drysdale, a five-time world champion and two-time Olympic medalist, attributes the massive support he gets while in Boston to the amount of times he has raced in the Regatta. “I think because I’ve have been in here for a number of years,” he said, “and so I’ve got to know a lot of people, and I love Boston, and they really seem to enjoy me coming. So it is awesome to have that support, and we really appreciate everyone getting in behind us and cheering for us and we certainly try and make ourselves available to people, because we just enjoy being a part of it.”

If Drysdale has been the figurative face of the Regatta these past few years, this year, his countrywomen Emma Twigg is the literal face of the Regatta, with her image dominating the massive pole banners that dot the bridges and landscape along the banks of The Charles.

“I don’t know how I’ve become the face of the race,” she said. “I guess it’s a compliment!”

Twigg, like Drysdale has a love for Boston. “The people make the race so great for us, I get looked after really well.” she said. “Every time I come here I don’t necessarily win it—it’s a very challenging course—but it’s a really nice way to start the season.”

“I think it’s just because I keep coming back,” Twigg said when asked to speculate on the reasons for her popularity on the Charles. “I love coming over, I love the people, and I love racing at the Regatta because it’s challenging and a nice way to start off our season before we head over and go to Europe.”

While the Head Of The Charles marks the end of the season for most competitors, for both Drysdale and Twigg, it’s something of a beginning. Twigg views it as a warm-up race before she heads off to Europe to prepare for her regular season with the national team. “It’s just something different at this time of season,” Twigg said. “A long distance race is obviously good to get you nice and fit, and I do it to keep fresh, rather than just doing it back home and thrashing it up and back, this is different.”

The winding three-mile Charles River course is “really tricky.” Twigg said, “so I probably wasn’t as good as I have been previously at this time of year, but it’s a bit of fun, but I really enjoy the race because it’s so different.”

For Drysdale this year, the Head Of The Charles is an early step in his preparation for the Olympics in Rio after taking a six-month sabbatical from rowing following his gold medal in London last summer.

“Mentally and physically my body is in great shape,” he said. “I’m mentally refreshed, so I’m really excited about getting back out there and training and pushing through to Rio.

“Obviously [my break] hasn’t helped in the physical part of things, the fact that I don’t have a lot of training under my belt hurts, but that will come and it’s long-term goals this time, but Rio is where I want to be at my best, so I guess that break was all to get me in the best shape could be for Rio.”

Results from the weekend would suggest that Drysdale is well on his way to regaining his world championship form. His time of 17:30.304 in yesterday’s Championship Singles was less than a second off the 31-year-old course record, though on this day it was good for only third place behind Norwegians Kjetil Borch and Nils Jakob Hoff.

Twigg finished fourth in her singles race, but will be going home from the Head Of The Charles with a gold medal nonetheless. She was a part of the women’s Great Eight—an all-star line up of global scullers rowing in an eight—on Sunday that bested the U.S. national team in the women’s championship eights race.

“It’s really different to rowing in the eight as apposed to sculling,” Twigg said. “It’s a lot faster, so you’ve got to be a lot quicker, and you don’t have to worry about where you are going, so you can just work really hard and not focus on steering the boat.

“On this course, I really prefer the eight!”


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