Rob Waddell Looking Forward To Garden City
Rob Waddell Looking Forward to Renewing a Winning Relationship with the Garden City
Auckland, 21 August 2007: While he has never competed in a rowing or yachting regatta on the waters around Christchurch, the ‘Garden City’ holds very special memories for dual New Zealand sporting international Rob Waddell.
It was in Christchurch back in February 2001, just months after winning gold in the men’s single scull at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, that Waddell claimed New Zealand’s ultimate sporting prize – the Halberg Award – for an unprecedented third time. Soon after he switched his focus to a different craft gaining a place as a grinder with Team New Zealand for its defence of yachting’s America’s Cup in 2003, where it was badly beaten 5-0 by Alinghi. He 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 Christchurch 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.”
While the crew for the 2009 Challenge 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 again, 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 luncheon at the Grand Chancellor Hotel in Christchurch on Friday September 7. “I will fondly recall that night back in February 2001 – one I will never forget,” he says. “It was very humbling to hear the things those guys (Athol Earl on behalf of the 1972 Olympic winning eight, Xeno Muller from Switzerland who Waddell beat in Sydney, and UK rowing legend Sir Steven Redgrave, winner of five Olympic rowing gold medals) said.
“It was a big night afterwards too with the guys from Team New Zealand, who won the Team of the Year category. I had just signed up with them and had a great time with Dean Barker, Joey Allen and some of the boys.”
Waddell says that of the 26 Red Coats, national rowing titles he amassed, a number were gained on Lake Ruataniwha in Twizel “so the South island has been pretty good to me.”
All proceeds from the Christchurch luncheon will go towards assisting young people with a disability in the Canterbury region.
Waddell says he is encouraged by the success New Zealand junior and senior crews have enjoyed overseas this year which demonstrates 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.