Australia’s four Final Olympic Qualification Regatta crews all took to the water today (Sunday) in Lucerne as racing got underway in Switzerland.
First up today was Western Australian, Rhys Grant, in the Men’s Single Sculls. Grant needed a top two finish in his heat to guarantee a spot in the semi-finals, anything less and it would require a second race in the afternoon’s repechage. Grant took on scullers from Denmark, Russia, Israel, Hungary and USA, and at the start it was Israel and Hungary in the lead.
The current President’s Cup holder from the 2016 Interstate Regatta, Grant sat back in fourth for the majority of the race, with the race looking at the 1500m to belong to Israel’s Dani Fridman and Hungary’s Bendeguz Petervari-Molnar. However, it was Sverri Nielson, from Denmark, who crept up on the outside to take the win, followed by Hungary, with Grant slipping back to fifth and booking himself a spot in the repechage.
In the repchage, later that afternoon, Grant took on Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia and Italy, with the top three booking places in Monday’s semi-finals. Grant showed his single sculls racing prowess, leading the race from the start, right up to the 1500m mark, but it was then that Russia and Germany made their move to pull in front of the Western Australian, but no matter, with Grant finishing in third he had kept Australia’s hopes of Olympic qualification alive.
In the Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls, the winner of the heat progressed straight to the final with the rest heading to the repechage. Hannah Every-Hall and Georgia Nesbitt were up against crews from The Netherlands and Sweden, with the Dutch the in-form crew. From the start the Dutch fired out the blocks leaving the Australians and Swedes in their wake, forcing the Australian duo to push hard to try and catch up the race leaders.
With the Dutch breaking further into the lead at the halfway mark, it turned into a battle between Australia and Sweden ahead of the repechage, with Sweden coming out on top. The Dutch snapped up with the win, in a time of 6:54, with the Australians coming in third with a time of 7:02. In the other heat, the Swiss finished first to book a place in the final in 7:00 flat, illustrating that there will be some fast racing in the Lightweights this week.
The Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls will race on Monday, at 16;28 local time, in the repechage, where a top four finish will book them a place in Tuesday’s final. Joining the Australians in the repechage are Greece, Sweden, Italy and Romania.
In the race for lanes, the Women’s Eight lined up alongside Netherlands, Romania, Germany and China, a first place finish would secure a middle lane for Tuesday’s final, where the boats that finish first and second will book their respective country a place in Rio. The Australian crew, made up of Sarah Banting, Olympia Aldersey, Lucy Stephan, Charlotte Sutherland, Molly Goodman, Meaghan Volker, Alexandra Hagan, Jessica Morrison and Fiona Albert had a slightly delayed start to their race due to a faulty start, but took to the water in pleasant conditions on one of the most picturesque courses in the world. The crew have named their boat this week in honour of the late Australian great, and London Olympic silver medallist, Sarah Tait.
The crew, coached by Mark Fangen-Hall and Alfie Young, had a strong start alongside against favourites Romania and The Netherlands and while Romania led from start to finish, the Australian crew put pressure on the Dutch and were just a second behind them at the 1000m mark. However, a push from the Dutch at the 1500m saw them pull out ahead of the Australians in a bid to chase down the Romanians and with that the final positions were confirmed – Romania first, Netherlands second, Australia third, Germany fourth and China fifth.
The Australian Men’s Eight also competed in a race for lanes in Lucerne, taking on the USA, Italy, Poland and Spain in the Exhibition Race. The crew, coxed by Stuart Sim, powered out of the start with a stroke rate of 51 which saw them take the lead and show the rest of the crews what the Australians have in their tank ahead of Tuesday’s final.
The Australians were in the lead at the halfway mark but this was when the USA chose to make their move, creeping through to take the lead at the 1500m mark, a lead they kept to the finish line. The battle was then between Australia and Italy in the final 500 metres with the Australians being pipped at the line by the Italians by 1.27 seconds. In some fast and exciting racing, Tuesday’s final will surely make for some fantastic viewing with two boat berths in Rio de Janeiro on the line.