Waddell: Valencia Almost Topped Olympic Gold

Published: Fri 17 Aug 2007 04:05 PM
Winning Olympic Gold in Sydney was Great, but Waddell claims Team New Zealand Almost Topped it at Valencia

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Rob Waddell, pictured with Halberg Trust founder Sir Murray Halberg, winning his third Halberg Award after his 2000 Athens’ rowing gold medal.
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Winning Olympic Gold in Sydney was Great, but Waddell claims Team New Zealand Almost Topped it at Valencia
Auckland, 17 August 2007: Winning an Olympic gold medal is hard to top, but Rob Waddell says being part of the improved Team New Zealand performance in this year’s America’s Cup off Valencia will remain a very special memory.
After winning the men’s single scull gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Waddell (32) then switched his focus to a larger boat and gained a place as a grinder with Team New Zealand for its defence of the America’s Cup on the Hauraki Gulf in 2003, which was badly beaten 5-0 by Alinghi. He retained his involvement with Team New Zealand and was part of Grant Dalton’s team this year which won the Louis Vuitton Challenger Series before losing to Alinghi again in the America’s Cup match.
But Waddell, guest speaker at the Westpac Halberg Celebrity Sporting Function in Napier next month, says Team New Zealand’s performance in Valencia this year “had to be seen to be believed. After what happened four years ago, it was an incredible performance for Team NZ to get where it did this time and it was a privilege to be part of the team.” Like many of the crew, he was also humbled by the incredible support of New Zealanders back home.
Having achieved at the highest level in sport as an individual – Waddell won back-to-back world single scull titles in 1998 and ‘99, completing the hat-trick with his Olympic gold medal triumph in 2000 – he says switching over to embrace a team concept, while initially challenging was also “hugely stimulating. You quickly learn that the sum of what you can produce working together as a team is far greater than what you can as an individual.”
Waddell also became the first and only person to win New Zealand’s ultimate sporting prize, the prestigious Halberg Award three times, in 1999, 2000 and 2001.
While the crew for the next Challenge in 2009 has yet to be confirmed Waddell says he “enjoyed the team dynamic and particularly the culture developed by Grant Dalton.” But with two young children and wife Sonia pregnant with number three, he says it may be time to focus more on keeping his feet on the ground.
He is also enjoying getting back to his first love, working on their Cambridge farm. “There are a lot of things that have been ignored for a few years which are keeping us both pretty busy.”
Waddell says he is looking forward to the Westpac Halberg Celebrity Sporting dinner at the War Memorial Hall in Napier on Saturday September 8. “Sonia spent a lot of time training down there a few years ago, we’ve got lots of friends down that way and I can even recall winning a couple of times on the Clive River in the annual New Year’s Day regatta organised by the Hawke’s Bay Rowing Club,” he says.
All proceeds from the Napier dinner will go towards assisting young people with a disability in the Hawke’s Bay region.
Waddell says he is encouraged by the success New Zealand junior and senior crews have enjoyed overseas this year which demonstrate the future of rowing is in good heart. And while racing competitively again is one of the last things on his mind, he admits he has been out on Lake Karapiro a few times since returning from Valencia.
“But I wouldn’t read too much into that,” he says. “I just want to keep fit. Some people like to run, some swim and others cycle – but getting out in a skiff is my enjoyment. And it also serves to keep me in some sort of shape.”
The Halberg Trust has planned a total of 11 Westpac Celebrity Sporting Functions around the country, which started in Auckland on August 10 with the 1987 All Blacks tribute lunch at Eden Park and will finish in Wellington on November 2. Other keynote speakers confirmed include Athens Olympic rowing gold medallists Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell, current Westpac Sportswoman of the Year Valerie Vili and current Halberg Award winner Mahe Drysdale.
Tickets for the Napier Westpac Celebrity Sporting dinner are available from Sport Hawke’s Bay on Ph 06 845 9333 or office[at]

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