Wellington College House Prefect Maxim Ericson won’t be setting foot on school grounds for several weeks.
For good reason though – he is currently living and training in Cambridge with the New Zealand U19 rowing team in preparation for the U19 World Rowing Championships at Vaires-sur-Marne, Paris in early August.
Maxim is one of five Wellington athletes and the only male from Wellington heading to the U19 World Championships, the others being Emma Bagrie and Zola Kemp (Wellington Girls’ College) and Kate Barham (Wellington East Girls’ College) and Nico Daly (ex-WGC).
The Wellington girls are in the U19 Women’s Eight, while Maxim is with the U19 Men’s Four crew. There is also an U19s Men’s Eights boat heading to France along with these two.
Maxim was selected to represent New Zealand from a gruelling trial on Lake Karāpiro in April, but getting the trial was the easy part, as he explained:
“One of the criteria is your 2km ERG score [rowing machine], and I had the fastest time from all the U18s this season of 6.04 minutes. I also got an automatic trial based on my silver medal at Maadi Cup.”
Maxim won silver in the U18 Single Sculls at Maadi Cup held in Summer Tournament Week in late March.
“But from a rowing and training perspective, the two weeks between the Maadi Cup and the New Zealand U19 trial week weren’t ideal,” he continued.
“I’m also a musician and play the trombone, and the next morning after Maadi Cup I was on a bus back up to Tauranga to attend the National Jazz Festival. Our band did well, but while I was there I got sick.
“So, week one I was playing in my band and not rowing and week two I was back home but sick and not training.”
The trials consisted of a series of 21 races with little rest in between over a few days, with the rowers switching seats and combinations to find the fastest crew among them.”
Maxim was selected for the quad team alongside Maadi Cup U18s Single Sculls winner Marley King-Smith from Queenstown and third placed Justin Smyth, and Jack Clark (both from the Waikato).
Maxim is in the two-seat of the World Championships fours boat. “I am the engine room or powerhouse. It is what you’d expect from me too, as I am the tallest and I have got the fastest score on the rowing machine.”
Maxim started rowing at the end of year nine at Wellington College, after returning home a year earlier with his family after growing up in Sydney since aged three and Singapore for the previous two years.
“When I came back from overseas I started playing rugby, but I wasn’t a terrific rugby player, but one of my teammates had just finished his first season of rowing and encouraged me to join the school rowing club. He was the top rower from the year above me, so my first goal was to chase him and catch up to him.”
Maxim was delighted with his silver medal at this year’s Maadi Cup. “My goal in the single was just to make the A final, so to come second was a great result for me.”
As well as rowing, he has his music, which he loves, and will also be sitting at least two scholarship NCEA papers later this year, English and Calculus.
“I started playing the trombone when I was eight and took that pretty seriously when I was living overseas. I moved back here and started playing jazz.”
That’s temporarily on hold. “Unfortunately, my parents thought the combination of having to pay for an extra checked bag, and also being able to leave my trombone in Wellington so my younger brother can learn to play it was enough to leave it behind!”
The New Zealand U19 rowing squad trains twice a day, early morning and in the afternoon, and attends school between 10am-2pm.
“Wake up is 5.30am, then in the gym to warm-up at 6.00am and in the water by 6.30am. Then school, then back for a row at 3.00pm.”
He pointed out that conditions on Karāpiro are much more benign than Wellington Harbour, so more time is actually spent on the water and less time on the rowing machines.
Saturday afternoons and Sundays are rest periods.
Maxim said that the management are keeping the team together and bonded off the water as well. “We have got a cooking course we are doing on Wednesday evenings, and we got a New Zealand U19 Taskmaster [based on the television game show] competition going on as well.”
Maxim’s U19 coach is Martin Simoncelli, while he also thanked his Wellington coach Sam Waghorne.
“Sam has been an excellent coach and I am really thankful for all the work that he has done. For example, he is hammering me all season for small technical details and that helps me be sharp now that I am here.”
Beyond this year, Maxim is undecided on his post-school plans, but will definitely be going to university, and possibly one in the United States. Artificial intelligence and game theory economics are two areas he is interested in pursuing.
For now, rowing is number one and for good reason too.
This interview and article was first published on College Sport Wellington on 14 June 2023.
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