Cordwell rising up the rowing ranks

BELLA CORDWELL took up rowing after watching the best, now she is having a crack at joining the best.

The Wellington East Girls’ College student has been selected for the New Zealand under-21 team that will compete against Australia in two regattas this year.

Cordwell, who is in her last year at school, will team up with former Chilton St James pupil Ella Pudney in a coxless pair.

It will be the first international competition for Cordwell who was prompted to take up the sport after watching the Kiwi rowers excel at the 2012 London Olympics.

“Watching Bond and Murray and Cohen and Sullivan – it was amazing how such a small country could produce so many good rowers.

“I also remember Mahe Drysdale from the Beijing Olympics and it made me have a think about rowing.”

Cordwell joined the Star Boating Club and has barely stopped training since.

The rewards have come and Cordwell has already been a medallist at the national club championships and the Maadi Cup regatta this year.

She was a member of the Star crew that claimed silver in the women’s eight at the national club championships and was the stroke for the East crew that took bronze in the under-18 coxed four at Maadi.

Cordwell was also close up when fourth in the under-18 single sculls at Maadi, finishing less than three seconds behind the silver medallist, and finished fifth in the double sculls.

“I was just stoked that I had made the A final in the single but was out the back after 1km. It was my last race for Wellington East, so I thought I had to do something and finished strongly. My fitness probably helped me along and I was only 0.7 seconds away from the bronze.”

Cordwell was selected to trial for the New Zealand junior team following Maadi and though missing selection for the junior world championships, was then offered a trial for the under-21 team.

Cordwell trialled only as a sculler for the world championships but was put into a pair with Pudney for the under-21 trials.

“Ella is also in Wellington and didn’t have anyone to row with and it has worked out well,” Cordwell said. “We teamed up about two weeks before the trials and only trained three or four times before we went up to Karapiro. But Ella is a really good person to row with.”

“My preference is for sculling [two oars] and I haven’t done much sweeping [one oar] but it seems to be going pretty well.”

Pudney and Cordwell were tested against other crews during the under-21 trials and had two wins and a second from three races.

“I was really stoked to make the team, especially as it means that I should make the central RPC (regional performance centre) squad next summer,” Cordwell said. “That had been one of my aims for the year.”

Cordwell, 17, has played a variety of other sports including tennis, volleyball, basketball and netball and has played for the East senior A team in both netball and basketball.

 However, rowing has taken over her sporting life.

“We are doing 12 training sessions a week for rowing at the moment, it’s pretty crazy.

“I have been on the bench for the netball team when they need me but there’s not enough time to get to two practices and a game.

“But it’s what I want to do. I really enjoy it [rowing].”

Cordwell, who at 1.73m is one of the smallest rowers in the under-21 squad, expects to maintain her punishing training schedule till after the under-21 series. The first regatta will be in Sydney, in early July and the second at Lake Karapiro in late August, and the New Zealand team will be in camp for a fortnight before each regatta.

“We try to get out on the water five or six times a week, otherwise it’s mainly gym sessions.”

Cordwell has always been willing to train hard. “She’s a bit crazy really,” her club coach, Nathan Wallace, said. “She’s one of those people who you sometimes have to tell to train less often. I wish everyone was more like that.

“She’s extremely determined and trains really hard and is prepared to do whatever it takes to win.

“She’s unbelievably fit and would be the fittest in our Star squad.”

Wallace also believes that Cordwell might find her niche as a sweeper rather than a sculler. “She’s a really good sweeper and the evidence is there from her results.”

Cordwell also has some sporting genes and an aunt, Belinda Cordwell, rates as one of New Zealand’s finest tennis players, being ranked among the top 20 in the world at her peak and a semifinalist at the 1989 Australian Open.