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Rower Jude Ellis is back in the boat after a five-year retirement from competitive rowing, with her eye on qualifying for the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

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Here's Jude with the New Zealand four and their coach in Switzerland. Jude is third from the left. The crew came 6th in the World Champs in 1990, and Jude is looking to do even better if she qualifies for the Sydney Olympics.

Her immediate goals are to get back the standard of fitness she had at the 1993 nationals (where she won six gold medals, including four national titles), and then to work to get even better as she looks towards Sydney 2000.

"It certainly doesn't happen overnight; during the next 21 months I will be working to maximise my strengths and minimise my weaknesses - or even better - turn my weaknesses into strengths," says Jude.

If she is to qualify for the Olympic rowing team, Jude will need to perform well enough to be selected in the eight to compete at the World Championships in Canada in August this year; the team will be aiming for fifth place or better at the World Champs to make it into the Olympics.

This goal sees Jude (32) get up at 5.15 every morning to go rowing, then she works a full day at the Hillary Commission (she is a member of the sport development team, specialising in coaching). After work, she goes for a run or to the gym for a weight training session. Sunday is her only day off, and she spends most of her holidays attending rowing camps or regattas.

If she makes the New Zealand Women's Eight, Jude will have to leave her job for 5 months and train full time (that's three times a day!) at Lake Karapiro over the winter.

Jude says you have to be really committed to be a successful rower, but the rewards are well worth it. The training is intense, and rowers need to be able to maintain their concentration for long sessions on the water and have a good feeling for boat rhythm. Jude is always working on her technique, looking for those small improvements that make the boat go just that split second faster.

Rowing is also a great recreational past time; whenever Jude sees some calm flat water, she imagines how great it would be to be out there having a paddle. "The rhythm you feel when you are moving the boat well is hard to describe to non-rowers - it's music for the soul!" she says.

Jude didn't picked up an oar until she was 21 and in her second year at Lincoln University. She had played lots of different sports - athletics, swimming, racket sports, ball sports - and had always dreamed of representing New Zealand. She thought she might do it in athletics as she was a good middle distance runner in school - but once she discovered rowing, she was hooked!

When she retired in 1993, Jude took up coaching and women's rugby. She coached the rowing team at Rangi Ruru Girls' School in Christchurch for three years and in 1996 coached a New Zealand Junior Women's Four. One of the girls she coached at Rangi Ruru and in the NZ Juniors is now in the National squad with her.

Now that she is rowing competitively again, Jude doesn't have time to coach, but she is the captain at her rowing club, Star Boating Club. Somehow, she found time to compete in the inaugural Auckland to Wellington cycle race last year - just for fun - and it took her 29 hours and 52 minutes!

Jude says she has been fortunate to have had great support from her friends, family and workmates, and some amazing coaches. Stephanie Foster was Jude's first coach, when she rowed with the NZ University Women's Eight in 1988; her input and encouragement inspired Jude to take rowing seriously.

Sport is a big part of Jude's life, and she enjoys watching or playing most sports. She has always admired the under-dogs of sport - people who have beaten the odds to come out on top - for example Gary Anderson, Beatrice Faumuina, Rod Waddell and Danyon Loader, who have succeeded as true amateurs in the international arena. She also likes tramping, gardening, travelling, meeting people, taking lots of photos and having long lunches with her friends.

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