Craigs Investment Partners, December 2021

Rower Brooke Donoghue says some of her best memories of the Tokyo Olympics involve her hosts. “The Japanese people went out of their way to look after us and make sure everyone was safe.” She recounts how locals farewelled the athletes as they left training camp a week before the Games. “They stood in a perfect line with a big banner saying, ‘Kia kaha. Go for victory.’ That kind of support from the locals was amazing.”

Brooke felt lucky to take part in the Olympics during the pandemic. Part of the special character of the event was the lack of spectators. While she would have preferred to have friends and family attending, Brooke had a front-row seat at the competition. “Being part of the wider New Zealand team was incredible. We formed a hub in our part of the village and were able to support other teams and individuals like the women’s sevens team and [boxer] David Nyika. I think the whole team bonded even more.”

The 26-year-old won a silver medal at her Olympic debut in Tokyo in the double scull with rowing partner Hannah Osborne. Brooke says she felt a sense of release on the water after five years of hard work. “I was quite emotional after the race because I knew we put everything we had into it. I was so stoked to win a Silver medal for New Zealand. I’m really proud of the team that enabled me to do that.”

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Brooke has also won two world championships in the double scull alongside Olivia Loe, as well as ten premier national championships.

Craigs Investment Partners spoke to Brooke during Waikato’s Covid-19 lockdown, where all her training is on an erg rower or a bicycle. She’s keen to get back into rowing and competing at nationals and hopes to once again make the New Zealand team and compete internationally next year. “I feel refreshed after a three-month break, where we’ve had no training or commitments. I’ve been able to catch up with my family and friends.” Off the water, Brooke is finishing her master’s degree in management, specialising in sustainability. She’s also planning a wedding in January and publishing a vegetarian cookbook with fellow Olympian, slalom canoeist Luuka Jones.

Craigs is the print sponsor for the duo’s cookbook. “We felt like there wasn’t an adequate resource for athletes in the vegetarian space. We hope it will also support anyone who wants to eat less meat.” All proceeds from the cookbook will go to a charity called the WaterBoy, which breaks down barriers for New Zealanders to participate in sport. “We were quite excited about the content we created, but without funding, it was never going to happen. Securing sponsorship from Craigs removed a huge weight from our shoulders.”

After hearing best-case and worst-case scenarios surrounding the Olympics, Brooke has learned to believe in her own story. “The biggest takeaway I’d pass along is to learn from those around you but trust in what you do as your experience is going to be your own.”

Quick Q&A with Brooke Donoghue

Who or what inspires you? My parents. I grew up on a dairy farm and Mum and Dad ran the whole farm themselves. I’ve seen what it takes to work hard and chip away at goals. I’ve learnt that the more work you put in, the more you get out.

How do you prepare for a race? What’s your routine? I try to keep things pretty chill. I think positive self-talk helps which I try to establish during training to prepare me for events. We practice our routine a lot, which is structured by the timings of warm-ups and race times. The routine becomes familiar which helps keep us relaxed and ready to race.

What are some challenges you have overcome? The biggest thing has been self-doubt. I’m quite capable of setting big goals but half of me never believes I’m actually going to do it. Year by year, I get better.

What advice would you give to girls or young women aspiring to be great in their sport or their career? Go for it! For me, taking a chance on sport was different from my friends who were going to university. Believe in yourself. If you really want to do something, you can do it —in all aspects of life.

Hometown? Waiterimu, in North Waikato.

Favourite food the day before a race? My favourite dinner the night before racing is pizza. Pre-race, peanut butter on toast.

Favourite podcast? I love podcasts. I listen to them all the time while training, like The Girls, Uninterrupted and The Row Show.

Motto you live by? Something that stuck with me from Japan was that instead of wishing people good luck, the Japanese would say “ganbatte” which translates to, “do your best.” I would repeat “ganbatte” on the starting blocks as that is literally all I could do.