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Two gold medals for Australia in World Rowing Cup 2

The Australian Rowing Team opened its World Cup medal tally for the international season today, winning two golds and two silvers on the closing day of World Rowing Cup 2. Australia’s Men’s Quadruple Sculls and Women’s Single Sculls won gold, while the silvers for Australia came from the Women’s Double Sculls and the Men’s Four. By virtue of its medal haul, Australia finished the event third on the medal table ahead of World Rowing Cup 3 in Poznan next month.

Rowing Australia’s General Manager – Sport, Jaime Fernandez said: “It’s been a good weekend of racing and it’s fantastic to see four crews medal here at Lucerne, along with six of the seven Olympic boat classes making the A Final. This is our first World Cup of the season and there are plenty of positives to take from the racing, setting up a solid platform for the group to move forward from. We’ll now head back to the AIS European Training Centre in Milan to prepare before World Rowing Cup 3 in Poznan next month.”

The first Australian crew to take to the water in the A-Finals was the Men’s Quadruple Sculls of Karsten Forsterling, Alexander ‘Sasha’ Belonogoff, Cameron Girdlestone and James McRae. Two days ago, in the heats, Australia recorded the fastest qualifying time and the 2015 World Rowing Championship silver medallists took on Great Britain, Switzerland, Germany, Poland and Lithuania in today’s final.

The British were the fastest out the start but the Australians weren’t to be trifled with and paced their way through the course and the two crews moved out in front of the rest of the field. The Australian crew, coached by John Driessen, went up another gear as they passed the 1500 metre mark and overtook the British who were unable to hold on in the sprint, to claim the gold medal.

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James McRae, Cameron Girdlestone, Sasha Belonogoff and Karsten Forsterling

Post-race, McRae said: “After the heat we knew we needed to work on our first 1000m. Our goal for today was to stay with the pack through that point and in the third 500m we wanted to push away and that worked really well. The last sprint we knew we had it as long as we steered clear of the buoys.”

Reigning Women’s Single Sculls World Champion, Kimberley Brennan, was favourite in the final of her boat class, but her competitors weren’t to be underestimated. She was joined in the A-Final by, amongst others, 2012 Olympic champion, Mirka Knapkova, China’s Jingli Duan and an inform Genevra Stone of the USA.

Brennan got away quickly and passed the first 500m marker just ahead of current European Champion Austria’s Magdanena Lobnig, as well as Knapkova. The rain was still falling and the small head wind had dropped away to nothing as they approached the middle of the race and Brennan managed to inch away rating a very tough 33-34 stroke rate as Lobnig dropped off the pace.

In the final sprint Brennan managed to gain a healthy margin and watch the line forming between Knapkova, Stone and Jingli Duan. Stone’s 37 stroke rate got her into second with Knapkova, at 33 holding on to third. The consistent rating of Brennan paid off and she crossed in first time of 7:28.

Post-race, Brennan said: “It’s nice to do what I wanted to do, especially after a long period of not racing internationally, you sometime forget a bit how to do it. We’re back to Varese after this and then I’m looking forward to racing in Poznan at World Rowing Cup 3.”

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Kim Brennan won the Women’s Single Sculls at World Rowing Cup 2

The Men’s Four were looking strong in their A-Final, especially having had the recent change of Josh Hicks into the stroke seat with Alex Hill recovering from illness. The crew of Hicks, Josh Booth, Josh Dunkley-Smith and Will Lockwood came off the start in lead and rating at 36 continued to lead through the middle of the race with Great Britain in second.

Australia managed to push to a two second lead and the crew were flying, but Great Britain started to make their move in the final 500 metres, with the Australians rating 42 and the British 45. The two crews were matching stroke-for-stroke in the final metres, but with just two metres to go to the finish line, Dunkley –Smith, caught a crab, which saw the British sneak past Australia to take the win. The Australians’ strong performance earlier in the race meant they held their momentum to cross the line in second while the Dutch were third.

Lockwood said: “For the first competition of the season it was very good. We are racing with our reserve at stroke because Alex Hill was sick, he’ll be back in the boat tomorrow. We caught a crab because we were under pressure in the last 500m, we need to get it more together before World Cup 3 in Poznan.”

The final medal of the night came in the form of the Women’s Double Sculls, with new doubles partners Genevieve Horton and Sally Kehoe competing in their first international A-Final in this set-up. The rain was falling as their race began but there was good flat water and the Australians fired out the blocks and pushed into the lead going through the second 500 metres and keeping up a stroke rate of 34 which gave them a boat length lead.

Behind them was plenty of action with the Germans, French, Greeks and Lithuanians all starting to push and this was when the 2013 World Champions, Lithuania’s Donata Vistartaite and Milda Valciukaite, began their push and increasing their boat speed. Horton and Kehoe had to keep an eye out of the Lithuanians as they crept up on the leaders in the final 500 metres and sprinted to the line in a quality battle with the Australians. Gold went to the Lithuanians, silver for the Australians, while Greece took bronze.

Kehoe commented: “It went so quickly; we’re rowing a new combination so we learn every time we are on the water. We may have over-paced a little bit, we’ve some time now so we’ll work this out.”

In the other A-Finals of the day, the Men’s Pair of Spencer Turrin and Alex Lloyd, finished fifth. Competing in rain with a steady tail-wind, the New South Welshmen were up against reigning World and Olympic Champions, New Zealand, as well as South Africa, The Netherlands, Great Britain and Spain. It was to be New Zealand’s day, once again, with Netherlands second and Great Britain third.

The Women’s Quadruple Sculls, of Maddie Edmunds, Kerry Hore, Jennifer Cleary and Jess Hall finished fifth in their A-Final. Germany and the Netherlands has been quickest in the heats but it was Poland who were the first to show their hand in the rainy conditions and ultimately it was their race, with the Germans in second and the Dutch in third.

In the B-Final of the Men’s Double Sculls, David Watts and Chris Morgan finished fifth, while yesterday Sarah Pound finished sixth. Earlier in the week, Rhys Grant qualified Australia’s Men’s Single Sculls for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games by finishing second in the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta.