Caitlin Harvey : South Africans in New Zealand


With Mitchell Mackenzie-Mol following in the footsteps of Olympic gold medallist Joseph Sullivan last month and winning the premier under-18 single sculls title at the Maadi Cup National Secondary Schools Championships, Picton is developing a reputation for producing exceptional scullers. At the same regatta, another Queen Charlotte College sculler stamped her mark on the national scene. Clay Wilson discovered the secrets of her success.

Caitlin Harvey’s success at the Maadi Cup National Secondary Schools rowing regatta at Lake Karapiro last month was a triumph for dedication, determination and a whole load of persistence.

In her third Maadi, the year 13 Queen Charlotte College sculler put in a fine effort to win bronze in the under-17 girls single sculls and backed that up with victory in the B final of the under-18 girls single. Following a fifth placing in the girls under-16 single last year, it was her first medal at the event and just reward for the many hours of training.
However, Caitlin’s satisfaction with winning bronze was not just due to mastering the hard training. The unassuming 17-year-old has also battled a physical disadvantage and, when she first got into the sport, had to fight to prove her worth as a rower.

Along with her parents, Daniel and Laura, and younger brother Alan who also rows for QCC, Caitlin moved to Picton from her native South Africa four years ago. A netballer and swimmer in her early years, a knee operation in 2008 ruled her out of sport for a year, but once she arrived in New Zealand it was not long before rowing became a part of her life.

“When I was younger Dad had a single skiff on the wall at his diving school. I always used to beg him to let me take it out, but it was quite rough on the water in South Africa. When we moved here he took me down to the rowing club to give it a go.

“[Dad’s skiff] came with us from South Africa when we came over because he wanted me to row it. I rowed it in my first season and it’s still down at the club now.”

It was not all smooth water early in her career though, especially when Picton and QCC coach Dave Bugler was not keen on coaching her at first, thanks to what Caitlin labelled “a bad experience” with a previous group of girls. Undeterred, Caitlin convinced the only other QCC rower at the time, current Central RPC member Ryan Wilson, to help her out. When Wilson’s sister Paige returned to rowing, Bugler agreed to lend his expertise.

Overcoming her physical disadvantage was Caitlin’s next hurdle. The knee operation left her with one leg shorter than the other and for the first season and a half she battled with the consequences. Eventually, a solution was found and these days she rows with a 12mm wooden plate under one foot.

Caitlin reckons overcoming these hurdles, coupled with a gruelling training schedule which has seen her on the water six days a week, plus on a rowing machine and running or cycling three days a week, has been key to her steady improvement.

“I’ve just kept trying I guess, a bit of determination . . . I’m pretty determined to show I can do well,” said Caitlin, whose hobbies on her Sunday rest days from training include photography, art and reading.

Getting more individual coaching time, as one of a small bunch of Picton rowers, has also been a bonus.

“We get a lot of one-on-one coaching time with Dave. At Marlborough Boys’ [College] I think they have 50-something rowers and two coaches. Here we only have four rowers, so we get a lot of one-on-one stuff and Dave can just sit with you and tell you what you are doing wrong and right.”

As a result of her performance at Maadi, Caitlin was selected to trial for the NZ junior team. However, she has since discovered she is ineligible because she does not yet have a NZ passport. It may not be the end of that dream, though.

Due to the differences in the South African and New Zealand school systems, Caitlin was effectively put up a year when she joined QCC. She is considering returning to school next year because of that and by that stage would be eligible to make a New Zealand junior team before hopefully starting an engineering degree at Canterbury University in 2015.

All that means a big few years ahead, but for this ambitious teenager it appears motivation is not an issue.

“It’s pretty rewarding and you get to eat a lot of food afterwards.

“If I come back to school I want to make NZ juniors and get better than bronze at Maadi. I think girls from Picton have only ever got bronze at Maadi before and I want to be the first to get a gold or silver.”


Name: Caitlin Harvey.

Nickname: Charvey, Caitlee, Cait and a few others.

Born: Port Nolloth, South Africa (I don’t think it’s on most maps), January 30, 1996.

Educated: Augsburg Landbougimnasium, Clanwilliam, South Africa (Afrikaans school), Queen Charlotte College.

Earliest sporting hero: Natalie du Toit (Paralympic swimmer who won silver in the 2012 Paralymipics).

Latest sporting hero: Jason Lester (first disabled athlete to compete in the Ironman World Championship), Joe Sullivan.

Must-watch TV programmes: Criminal Minds and Bones.

Must-have foods: Pumpkin lasagne and sour skittles.

What’s hot on your iPod: The Wallflowers, Live, The Rolling Stones, You Me At Six, The Goo Goo Dolls, The Cab, Mayday Parade, Hurts.

Favourite holiday spot: Greek Islands or anywhere near the beach.

Superstitions: Wearing brightly coloured (neon pink/orange) socks when racing. Most other rowing superstitions haven’t worked too well for me in the past.

Pet hates: Negativity.

Fashion crime: I’m not a slave to fashion, but wearing leggings as trousers.

Favourite sporting moment: Getting a gold medal in the u-19 single.

Worst sporting moment: Hearing the buzzer and stopping just before the finish line thinking I’d won the race. As it turned out, I was only second. Luckily it was only a heat.

In five years I’ll be: Working towards my engineering degree and hoping to finally represent NZ in rowing.

– The Marlborough Express

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