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Australians powering in Plovdiv

The U23 Australian Rowing Team had a fantastic second day at the World Rowing U23 Championships with seven of its eight crews making their respective semi-finals or A-Final.

The Australian U23 Women’s Four of Georgina Howe, Jacinta Edmunds, Rachel Engel and Sarah Davis, got away quickest in Heat Two of the event and by the middle of the race the crew had pulled into an early lead. Vicky Spencer’s crew were being chased by last year’s silver medallists, New Zealand, but were having none of it with only one qualifying spot up for grabs into the A-Final, the Australians held of the challenge and forced the rest of the crews into Friday’s repechages.

Hot on the heels of the women, the U23 Men’s Coxed Four of Louis Snelson, Sam Hardy, Jack Cleary, James Croxford and coxswain Louis Copolov took to the water with the US-based Australians requiring a top two finish for a direct path to the A-Finals. Tom Laurich’s crew got away just behind Germany in Heat One, but soon managed to reel in the fast-starting Germans. The Australians then had to contend with Turkey who overtook Germany and began to chase down the Aussies but at the line Turkey had won the battle against Germany to qualify directly for the final, however it was Australia who took the victory, a place in the A-Final and the fastest qualifying time of 6:14.

The Australian U23 Women’s Pair of Addy Dunkley-Smith and Katrina Werry drew on the positive start to the morning when they took to the water in their heat. The Victorian pair, coached by Simon Gadsden, needed a top two finish to make the A-Final this weekend and that’s exactly what they did.  Germany had a fast start but were soon battling it out with Australia, with Dunkley-Smith and Werry looking to better the Australian Rowing Team’s bronze medal from 2014 (won by Jessie Allen and Genevieve Horton).

The German-Australian battle continued to go neck-and-neck as they moved clean away from the rest of the field. Dunkley-Smith, the younger sister of Senior A athlete Joshua Dunkley-Smith, and Werry moved away from Germany with 500m to go and as push came to shove the Australians snapped up the win.

The U23 Men’s Pair of Nick Wheatley and Jack Hargreaves had arrived in Plovdiv earlier this week having raced with the Senior A team in World Rowing Cups II and III. The 2014 U23 silver medallists in this event are eager to take home gold this year and went out in their heat today with an eye on that A-Final.  The pair, coached by Mark Prater, looked at ease in their race, leading from start to finish and won the race with the fastest qualifying time overall, a handy thing to have ahead of Saturday’s semi-finals.

In Heat 3 of the U23 Men’s Double Scull, the new Australian partnership of Tom Schramko and Luke Letcher took to the water. Letcher competed in the single at last year’s  World Rowing U23 Championships, while Schramko has recently made the step up from the Junior Australian Rowing Team. By the middle of the race, the Australian crew maintained the lead but were under increasing pressure from Italy, while Switzerland remained in striking distance of the top two boats. The top two crews would make the semi-finals and avoid the repechage and despite a push from Switzerland it was to be Italy in first place and Australia in second, with Nick Garratt’s crew clocking a time of 6:30:19, just 0.75 seconds behind Italy.

The Men’s Quadruple Scull showed their mettle in their heat and proved that Australia are ones to watch at this event. The crew of Rob Black, Christopher Hayes, William Mure and Alex Purnell required a top three finish for a direct path to Saturday’s semi-finals.  Going through the middle of the race, Australia had a slight lead over Germany. The Germans finished third at last year’s event while Australia was not represented in the final. However, this year things look to be headed down a different path with Australia winning their heat comfortably, followed by Italy and Belarus and Germany headed for the repechage.

Harvard University rower, Jack Kelly, raced in the U23 Lightweight Men’s Single Scull heats this afternoon, needing a first place finish to make the semi-finals and avoid tomorrow’s repechages. The Adelaide-born rower is in a boat class that features 21 countries and Kelly was up against competition from Japan, Sweden, Ukraine and Tunisia in his heat. Japan’s Yasushi Fukui led the race from start to finish, while Kelly sat steadily in second throughout the race and this is how the race concluded with Fukui winning and taking the only automatic semi-final spot, and Kelly taking second and a place in tomorrow’s repechages.

The U23 Lightweight Women’s Double Scull had a great start to their heat at the World Rowing U23 Championships. The double, who are coached by Alex Field, needed a top two finish to automatically qualify for Saturday’s semi-finals and that they did. Amy James and Holly Lawrence led their heat for the majority of the race only to see the young Greek Lightweight Double crew sneak up on them at the line to take the win, however a second place still secured the Queennsland/New South Wales crew a spot in Saturday’s semi-finals.

Tomorrow will see the Lightweight Men’s Pair of Jack Armitage and Hamish Parry take to the water for their semi-finals and Jack Kelly will race his repechage in a bid to make the Lightweight Men’s Single semi-final. Times to be published tomorrow (Friday) or visit www.worldrowing.com.