Local rowers star in New Zealand 

Harriman earns four medals, Ziff takes two at World Masters Games

PHOTO SUBMITTED - MEDALS IN A ROW Rowers Diane Ziff (left) and Maureen Harriman performed impressively at the World Masters Games in Auckland, New Zealand.
  • Photo submitted
  • MEDALS IN A ROW Rowers Diane Ziff (left) and Maureen Harriman performed impressively at the World Masters Games in Auckland, New Zealand.

Competing in an elite event right out of the gates wouldn't bode well for many rowers.

But it worked out just fine for Maureen Harriman and Diane Ziff.

Both rowers were winners and multiple medallists at the World Masters Games in New Zealand in late April. Harriman took home four medals and Ziff took a pair.

Both said they didn't have much chance to train on water beforehand, and Harriman nearly passed up the opportunity to go.

"I strongly considered not going because we haven't been on the water at all. I did a lot of cross-country skiing and a bit of erging (indoor rowing). I did go to the city to row a little bit but it's really hard for me to do that," Harriman said. "Cross-country skiing is good cross-training and I have enough muscle memory that it seemed to come back.

"I was very surprised. I really thought I would be lucky to make the finals let alone medal at an event like that."

Once she was there, Harriman took gold in the coxed four, silver in the single scull and the double scull and third in the women's eight.

Harriman went back to an old discipline to earn the gold.

"The fun thing about that one is I hadn't ridden sweep, which is single oar, for 20 years," she said. "We put the four together and had an excellent row and won that one.

"It's kind of like riding a bike. I went out just to practice a little bit at Vancouver Rowing Club before I went just to make sure I hadn't forgotten how to do it. The patterns are still the same. It was exciting... it was fun to switch up the disciplines a little bit."

However, Harriman said her most exciting event ended up being her solo race, where she faced off in a heart-pounding battle against Columba van Mullekom of Australia.

"The best race was in my single (event) because I lost by just 0.2 of a second, but we were neck and neck the whole way. We couldn't tell who won when we finished, so it was a fantastic competition," she said.

Ziff, meanwhile, won her double scull event alongside Germany's Veronika Zimmert — the same rower who bested her in the single scull event. She also made a pair of finals while competing on teams in younger age divisions.

"In my singles race, I came second but I would have liked to have done better," she said. "It's not an excuse. You've gotta win, but there were a few things with my boat that I would have liked to have been better."

She enjoyed competing alongside the German in their doubles race, though it was at times difficult to communicate.

"She spoke very, very sparse English," she said. "When we got together, we communicated on the Internet via Google Translate.

"When we got there, we just got in the boat and we rowed. If you've been rowing for a long time, you can generally get in a boat with someone who's had a lot of experience and row with them. You adjust your stroke to what she's doing."

Ziff noted her competitive season doesn't normally begin until June, allowing her a number of weeks to get onto the Whistler water in advance of her first race. However, the relative earliness of the World Masters combined with a chillier winter in Whistler kept her cooped up inside on a rowing machine from her initial training in December before she went north to Pemberton, which had its lakes thaw sooner.

"Normally, we're on the water at the end of March, but this year, it didn't happen. I left on the 20th of April and the lake was still frozen," she said. "I went up to Pemberton, and I just wanted to get some time in the boat. I knew their lake was thawed out so I went up there and rode 250 metres back and forth.

"I was just rowing, not doing any particular training on it."

When training indoors, it's more to keep one's fitness up as opposed to nailing down the stroke, but it ended up paying off in the end.

"The technique on water is a little bit different, and it's basically the same, but there are certain things that are not the same. It's hard to train indoors. I would much rather be in the water," she said. "You do what you have to do to get to where you're going."

Ziff is taking a little time off to recover before getting back on the water, but plans to attend the US Rowing Northwest Regional Masters Championships in Vancouver, Wash., next month. There are a couple question marks after that, as she's considering a race in Slovenia later this summer as well as the Head of the Charles in Boston, with a couple of local races in the Lower Mainland sprinkled in.

Harriman said she'll be rowing, but not racing, for much of the summer, though she also plans to compete at the Head of the Charles.

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