Twigg wins Billy Webb Challenge in the name of Kafue
Emma Twigg may have taken a year off from competing for the New Zealand team, but it has not seemed to slow her down. Twigg took line honours for the women single scullers at the 2015 Billy Webb Challenge and donated her $1000 prize purse to the Kafue River & Rowing Centre.
Twigg won the women's single sculls at the 2014 World Rowing Championships and, what many considered the height of her career, she then took the 2015 season off to study for the Fifa masters sports programme.
Now back training with the New Zealand team, Twigg has already showed she has lost no fitness. Twigg recently set a World Record on the indoor rowing machine for the 5000m distance and last weekend she finished as first woman in the prestigious Billy Webb Challenge on New Zealand's Whanganui River.
Raced over 5000m, the Billy Webb Challenge began with a mass-start of single scullers, similar to Switzerland's Armada Cup. Twigg was in the second line of boats behind the elite men and she used a low-30s stroke rate to move ahead of last year's winner, Lucy Spoors and Canada's top woman sculler, Carling Zeeman and then worked to extend her lead.
"There were five guys ahead of me, so they washed me down for the race," says Twigg who ended fourth overall and 59 seconds behind overall winner, Mahe Drysdale.
Twigg's win earned her $1000(NZD) and she was quick to announce that she would donate it to the Kafue River & Rowing Centre. Twigg is an ambassador for Kafue which is part of World Rowing's clean water initiative. Currently World Rowing is fundraising to establish a research and rowing facility that studies methods for clean water management. It is based on the Kafue Flats, Zambia.
"I have talked about raising awareness (for Kafue)," says Twigg, "but I find it difficult to dedicate time. The Billy Webb Challenge wasn't something I'd planned into my schedule so it was a bonus to pick up the prize money. It's an awesome cause and hopefully (my donation) will bring some attention to it."
Twigg says that she has been talking to regatta organisers and there may be plans for a couple of future New Zealand regattas to donate to Kafue. Twigg has also been brainstorming to work out a way to raise awareness through her rowing training.
The Billy Webb Challenge attracted 40 scullers with Twigg winning the Philippa Baker-Hogan trophy for the women and Drysdale winning the Billy Webb Challenge trophy for the men. This was Drysdale's fifth challenge win and came as redemption after finishing second to Hamish Bond in 2014. Andrew Potter was second and Cameron Crampton finished third for the men. Both Potter and Crampton are part of the New Zealand summer squad. For the women, last year's winner, Spoors finished second and Olivia Loe was third.
The Billy Webb Challenge is an annual event and commemorates single sculling World Champion Billy Webb's historic defence of his title on the Whanganui River in 1908.
For more information about Kafue here.