Athlete of the Month - November 2016
New Zealand’s Rebecca Scown has a lot of medals to her name. She’s most recently taken silver at the Rio Olympics in the coxless pair – a class that she’s been the world champion in twice. She’s also won World Rowing Championship bronze three times in the pair and Olympic bronze in London. Not content to stay in a little boat, she was part of New Zealand’s silver-medal winning eight at the 2015 World Rowing Championships, a boat that she doubled up in and placed fourth in Rio. Scown is currently the only returning Olympic medallist on the New Zealand team.
World Rowing: How did you first get into rowing?
Rebecca Scown: I started rowing at my high school. My sister and brother were rowing at the time and I didn’t want to miss out so I followed them into it.
WR: Have you got any family members who are rowers or athletes?
RS: I come from a very sporty family - a lot of good rugby players, cricketers and track athletes. My uncle was an All Black, and my cousin and brother, who were both good rugby players, each won the Maadi Cup (New Zealand’s high school rowing championships). My cousin Sonia Waddell (nee Scown) rowed in the single for NZ at Sydney and Athens. She also competed for NZ at the junior level in hurdles and is a NZ time trial champion for cycling. Sonia and I haven’t ever been in a boat together as our careers didn’t quite overlap but it’s on the cards hopefully very soon.
WR: If you hadn't dedicated yourself to rowing, what would you be doing instead?
RS: I really have no idea…rowing has taken my life down a completely different path and now I find it hard to imagine what my life would look like without it.
WR: Where are you at present - and where are you at in your training/racing cycle?
RS: I’m in Cambridge where I live. I’m still on holiday but am doing a little cross training and have recently returned from the Head of the Charles and running in the New York Marathon.
WR: Can you tell us about your experience in Rio?
RS: The racing in Rio was tough but I loved being out there. I felt a mixture of satisfaction and disappointment with the pair and the eight results but I was ultimately very proud of what we achieved in both boats.
I really enjoyed getting to know and being a part of the wider NZ Olympic team which came from staying in the main Olympic Village throughout the Games. I was lucky to have so many of my family and good friends there to share the experience with. So, Rio was a very special time for me and I have great memories.
WR: What was your role in the pair?
RS: I think my role has been to provide a bit of calmness to the situation and reliability. And probably to get us through the second half of a race, to make up for what was more than likely a slow start due to my lack of power!
WR: Do you and your pairs teammates hang out outside of rowing, or is it strictly an on-water partnership?
RS: I am happy that I've had really great friendships with my pair partners from both the London (Juliette Haigh) and Rio (Genevieve Behrent) Olympics. It’s definitely not strictly a rowing partnership with either of them. They’re really great people and are both a lot of fun to be around.
WR: How do you prepare on race day?
RS: Usually a pre-row and food, of course, features. Before the race, I warm up on the erg. I like time to sit and relax at the boat park and I enjoy having a few people around who can make a joke or a bit of fun to keep things relaxed.
WR: Where is the best place to row in the world?
RS: I’d say Lake Bohinj in Slovenia is one of my favourite training locations and Lake Bled is one of my favourite race courses - though Lucerne will forever be a special course.
WR: How you feel about ergs?
RS: I don’t mind them as a training tool and for tests I think I’ve now learned how to pace myself and what I’m roughly capable of. I also know there is no escaping the pain, but you will get to the finish line eventually in some way, shape or form.
WR: What do you do when you're not rowing?
RS: I like to spend time with my friends and family, going out for meals or a drink. In the summer it’s nice to go to the beach. I’m also currently learning to play golf.
WR: What do you consider your best race or biggest achievement in rowing?
RS: I’ve had some great battles in the pair, but I think doubling up in the pair and the eight in Rio is probably up there. We were the first women’s eight NZ has had in the Olympics and the first women’s eight to medal at the World Championships, so to be a part of that feels like one of my biggest achievements in rowing.
WR: You've achieved so much - what's your next goal?
RS: This is a hard question for me to answer at the moment and I’m going to take my time to make sure the next move or goal I set is a good one. I will resume training with the team soon, but I’m fairly relaxed about my rowing this year.
WR: What's different about rowing in your thirties compared with your teens and twenties?
RS: I think the knowledge I have now in my thirties about myself and the sport of rowing is the biggest difference. I have feared the challenge less and enjoyed it more as my career has gone on. Being an older athlete and helping the younger athletes over the last two years added a really enjoyable element to my rowing. I also got to see rowing through fresh eyes which was fun.