Emma Twigg being interview after winning single scull at the New Zealand trials. (Photo courtesy of NZOlympics.)
After the 2016 Rio Olympics, Emma Twigg was finished with competitive rowing. She finished a heart-breaking fourth in the single scull event by less than a second. She had to stand to the side as her competitors mounted the podium. While this would be a hard circumstance in itself, it was devastatingly familiar. Twigg had finished fourth in the 2012 London Olympics. This was her worst nightmare, repeated. While she had completed an outstanding career as an admirable rower, she announced her retirement soon after the closing ceremonies.
And yet … now she’s back.
It was after volunteering at the 2018 Winter Olympics, that the Olympic fire in her, reignited. In March of last year she told newsroom.co.nz: “There’s a lot of work to do, because I haven’t touched an oar pretty much since I left Rio. Maybe I’m being completely unrealistic, but it’s one of those things that I’ve got to try.”
But Twigg didn’t just sit on the couch since Rio wrapped up. Last year, Twigg, Sarah van Bellekom and Rebecca Wardell, began a charity bike ride from Lake Geneva in Switzerland to Lake Hawea, in New Zealand. The ride benefited a New Zealand organization called, Forward Foundation, which seeks to inspire the next generation of female leaders through sport. Twigg rode through the first five months of the odyssey, clocking 100km bikes everyday while still stopping to erg and row along the way. She had to cut her participation short to make sure she returned to New Zealand with enough time to start her rowing training formally. To track the remaining two riders on their journey, visit their website.
To say the least, Twigg’s path has been unconventional. But it isn’t even the first time she had broken from the common route. Before the Rio Olympics, she had taken a break from the New Zealand training centre to complete her Master’s degree in Europe. She qualified for that Olympics, at the, ‘last chance’ regatta.people.”
Now 31, Twigg won Rowing New Zealand 2019 Single Scull Trials in the first weekend in March. Her performance cements her place on the country’s international team that will compete in the World Cups and World Championships this summer.
“Obviously, I wouldn’t be coming back not to win a medal,” Twigg told NZOlympics in an interview at the Trials. “But I think at the end of the day having a medal or not having a medal is not going to define me. I think it’s more about what I get out of the sport and what I can give back to other people.”
Sometimes the conventional path is overrated. She will be a story to watch in the months ahead.