Mon, Apr 29, 2024 8:14 PM

Mila selected to take on world’s best in Canada


Peter Jones

After missing out on a South Island under-18 trial last season, Marlborough Girls’ College rower Mila van Rensburg was doubly determined to push for a chance to show her worth to the New Zealand under-19 selectors in 2024.

And, when that opportunity came, the 17-year-old took it with both hands, earning a place in the national junior coxless four which will contest the world championships in Canada in August.

Mila was part of the MGC under-18 four that won a bronze medal at this year’s Maadi Cup regatta, her form catching the national selectors’ eye and earning her a trial, from where the final team was selected.

Although she and her MGC crewmates had produced a strong showing at Maadi, Mila’s national trial call-up came as a surprise.

“It was a big surprise, yes. After missing out on the South Island trials last season I was quite gutted, so I thought I would try for the [NZ] Juniors.

“But being under-17, I am eligible for the NZ Juniors next year as well and so wouldn’t have been surprised if I had been named for a South Island trial.

“I would have been fine with that, but obviously very happy to be given a NZ trial, which was what I wanted.”

After a three-week training block on the Wairau with fellow MGC rower Grace Straker and coach Matt Straker, Mila headed north to the trials at Lake Karapiro.

First up was a 2km erg test which she described as “pretty daunting”.

“You warm up on your own, then you do your test in front of a panel of selectors in silence inside a squash court at St Peter’s. The result of that determines your ranking for seat racing – which I had never done before.”

After a few days of swapping seats over various distances Mila found herself as three seat in the four that would ultimately be selected.

“They put us up against other boat classes and we had no idea how we were going … it was maximum intensity every single time.”

The final challenge was a prognostics test, essentially a 2km time trial measured against the world’s best times, which would decide who made the cut.

After a nerve-wracking wait, the team was announced, and Mila couldn’t contain her emotions.

“I cried,” she said. “I had worked very hard … and I know it doesn’t always pay off, but this time it did.

Mila on the podium at the Maadi Cup regatta. Photo Sharron Bennett Photography

“I called my Mum and Dad straight away. They have been such a big part of it … texting me all the time. Then I called my MGC coach [Hannah Starnes] because she has been really good. I was just so happy …”

Mila will join rowers from Waikato Diocesan, Rangi Ruru and Epsom Girls’ Grammar in the four - ironically three of whom shared the podium at this year’s Maadi Cup.

Life is certainly hectic for the MGC Year 13 student, who doubles as a part-time lifeguard and swim instructor at Stadium 2000.

She plans to take a 10-day break from rowing, then begin independent training in Marlborough to build her aerobic base. In mid-June she returns to Cambridge for a six-week training block before heading to Canada.

“I just feel so grateful … and very excited just to train, I love training,” she explained.

“It was inspirational watching the [NZ] elites training and doing their final preparations for the World Cup at Karapiro when I was there. It is a whole different league … just another level of professionalism, I guess.

“It is going to be very, very cool to train up there.”

Although the forthcoming junior worlds are Mila’s main focus at the moment, she is also looking further ahead.

She is currently talking to a few schools in the United States with an eye on a rowing scholarship.

“I have had a few offers so far, but I am weighing them up.

“I would like to study a pre-med degree in bio chemistry so I can come back to New Zealand and apply [for university] further down the line,” she added.

Mila is fundraising through various sources for the cost of her world championships campaign. One of these is a givealittle page, who’s link is

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