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July 30, 2021 2 min
Former Napier woman Emma Twigg has claimed Olympic Gold after winning her women's single sculls on Friday.
The 34-year-old Napier Girls' High School and Hawke's Bay Rowing Club alumni took the win in a time of 7m 13.97s, more than four seconds ahead of the Russian Olympic Committee's Hanna Prakatsen who placed second at Tokyo's Sea Forest Waterway.
It was an Olympic best with Twigg blitzing the field and taking an early 500m lead at the start.
Prakatsen took silver in 7m 17.39 and Austria's Magdalena Lobnig bronze in 7m 19.72s.
Twigg has previously won gold at the World Championships as a single sculler in 2014 but this is her first Olympic medal.
She was in disbelief as she cross the finished line.
"I didn't hear the hooter and thought I had stopped before the line," she said.
"I'm lost for words. I can't believe it. All these years, many, many disappointments. I can't thank the people I have surrounded myself with enough. They got me here. That's not my result, it's my team.
"I had a great moment with my coach Mike [Roger] before. He didn't know if he was going to be here with me after a car crash. This is fate," she said through tears.
Rowing under the colours of the Hawke's Bay rowing Club, club captain Belinda VanderPeet said Twigg was "still 100 per cent a Hawke's Bay girl".
The club's first Olympic medal win, she said they were "so very proud of her" for achieving her goal.
"She put the time in and so much work."
The club has a rowers programme starting this weekend and expected a large turnout after Twigg's gold.
"It's so exciting. It puts excitement back into the sport."
Napier Girls' High School principal Dawn Ackroyd said she was "on cloud nine" after the whole school packed into the assembly to watch Twigg row her way to gold.
"It was just incredible.
"The cheering was deafening and there were a few tears of joy."
Ackroyd described the former Head Girl as role model student, and said current students would be inspired by what she had accomplished.
"I said to my students this could be you."
It was Twigg's fourth Olympic Games, with two previous fourth-place finishes.
She took two years out following Rio, worked for the IOC and it was while at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in 2018 that she started entertaining thoughts about a comeback.
Abandoning a plan to cycle from Switzerland to Singapore, Twigg instead returned to New Zealand and her partner Charlotte (they married last year).
She also returned to Lake Karapiro with a reinvigorated passion for the sport forged on the Clive River under the eye of her father Peter, a coach at the Hawkes Bay Rowing Club.
It's New Zealand's fifth Olympic Medal after Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler won Gold in the Women's coxless pair and Brooke Donoghue and Hannah Osborne also won silver in the Women's double sculls.
The Rugby Sevens took home silver while Hayden Wilde won bronze in the Men's triathlon.
Text by Gianina Schwanecke, NZ Herald
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