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​Emma Dyke’s rowing journey - ignited at Craighead and concluded with silver in Tokyo

  • 10 May 22

Emma Dyke grew up on a dairy farm in Mayfield, Mid-Canterbury, and started rowing at Craighead Diocesan and Timaru Rowing Club in 2010 at the age of 15.

Emma first represented New Zealand at the 2013 World Rowing Junior Championships in the women’s coxless four, where the crew placed 5th. After rowing for Southern Rowing Performance Centre for one season, she was selected in the Under 23 women’s four and went on to win silver at the World Rowing U23 Championships in Varese, Italy. Just one year later Emma found herself part of the elite women’s eight. The crew won a silver medal at the 2015 World Rowing Championships and in the process made history as the first-ever women’s eight from New Zealand to qualify for the Olympic Games. A narrow 4th place in Rio didn’t slow Emma down and she continued in the boat class for the 2017 season. The crew picked up a host of World Rowing Cup medals along with a Henley Royal Regatta win and capped off a solid season with a nail-biting bronze from the World Rowing Championships in Sarasota, Florida.

In 2018 Emma was again selected in the women’s eight that placed 7th at the World Rowing Championships. This result made 2019 an important year for the New Zealand women’s eight, who came back to the international circuit with a point to prove. Another reshuffle of seats put Emma into two seat of the most successful women’s eight New Zealand has ever produced, with wins at World Rowing Cup III, Henley and, for the very first time, at the World Rowing Championships.

Following on from this successful 2019 campaign, Emma was named in the women’s eight, alongside Ella Greenslade, Lucy Spoors, Kelsey Bevan, Grace Prendergast, Kerri Gowler, Beth Ross, Jackie Gowler, and Caleb Shepherd (cox) to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. The crew continued their success by bringing home a silver Olympic medal and cementing themselves as some of the most dominant sweep rowers in the world.

Dean Milne, who has been coaching rowing at Craighead Diocesan for the past 22 years, said Dyke "is an amazing success story’’. "She was a very hard worker and I use her as an example even today when I talk to the junior rowers. She worked hard towards it and got it [an Olympic medal].” Dean said it was "an amazing effort from Emma and the team" who were 0.91 seconds from gold in Tokyo.

Joy and Brian Hutchins Emma’s grandparents watched the Tokyo race from Timaru, they have followed their grand-daughter's accomplishments closely over the years. In other years Jo and Brian were in the grandstands watching her compete in World Cups and other events all around the globe, but for 2021 - Dyke's second Olympic bid - they were limited to being "armchair spectators" due to Covid. The Hutchins took what they could get though, and they couldn’t have been prouder of Emma and the achievement.

Craighead Diocesan’s principal, Lindy Graham, expressed how proud she is of Emma and all that she has achieved throughout her rowing career, showing incredible commitment and resilience. Lindy added that Emma, who finished schooling at Craighead in 2013, still has a strong association with the school and has visited the campus to motivate the youngsters and upcoming rowers.

“We followed Emma progressing from the NZ Juniors through to Tokyo, we have all been her biggest supporters. I feel very honoured knowing I played a small part in her very successful rowing career. Emma knows she will always be welcomed at Craighead whenever she is back in town, and I congratulate for all her success and wish well for her future.”

Vera Bucsu from Laszlo Boats NZ and @artofrowing has loved working with Emma over the years as a photographer/artist. “Emma has been one of the rowers I have photographed the most – mostly because she has always been open to exploring new visual ideas. Working with and around elite athletes has always filled me with a sense of awe. It can sometimes be a bit intimidating, but from day one she welcomed and encouraged me into their world, and always with a big smile. I believe that every artist needs a muse. Emma has become mine.”

It was an emotional decision for Emma to step away from rowing, “I have lived and breathed rowing for the past 9 years, however I know it is the right time for me to start something new.”

Emma is grateful for all the support she has had over the years, “Thank you to everyone that has made the last 9 years such great ones.”