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Birthday girl Brennan back on top

Article supplied courtesy of the Australian Olympic Committee – Click here for more news.

Birthday girl Kim Brennan was back in fighting form today at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, winning her quarter-final race in the women’s single sculls to progress to Thursday’s semi-finals.

Rhys Grant also had a good day on the water, finishing second in his quarter-final to progress to the semi-finals of the men’s single sculls, while the men’s pair had a fantastic race in their semi-finals to book a place in the A-Final of their event on Thursday.

Unfortunately, Australia’s men’s and women’s double sculls finished outside of the top three in each of their respective semi-finals, which means they’ll both now contest the B-Finals, for world rankings.

The first Australian on the water today was Grant in the men’s single sculls quarter-finals. The West Australian’s two main rivals in the race came in the form of Cuba’s Angel Rodriguez Fournier and Nils Jakob Hoff of Norway, while they were joined also by rowers from Uzbekistan, Indonesia and South Korea.

With the top-three qualifying through to Thursday’s semi-finals, Grant powered out of the start knowing he needed to keep up with Fournier and, at the halfway mark, the Cuban was leading with Grant in second, with the duo having a comfortable clear water advantage over the rest of the field.

As the crews approached the finish line, Fournier extended his lead ever so slightly, while Grant maintained his second place position. Hoff’s boat was the third to qualify for the semi-finals.

The 29-year-old Grant, making his Olympic debut at this Games, was happy with his race performance.

“I felt I put down a good start and a good first kilometre and then set up to where I wanted to be in the race,” Grant said.

“Once you get yourself in a good solid position you’re then able to keep an eye on the people behind you.

“I felt like I was with Angel for a good part of the race and he’s been on the podium a few times in the last cycle, so I do feel like I can keep up with this group as we progress.

“I’m now mixing with the world’s top 12, which is pretty exciting.”

2015 world champion and birthday girl Brennan returned to her winning ways when she snapped up victory in her quarter-final in the women’s single sculls.

The 31-year-old took the reins from the start of her race, held in calmer conditions than she had experienced in her heat.

Taking on two-time Olympic gold medallists Ekaterina Karsten from Belarus and 2015 world championships bronze medallist Jingli Duan, of China, Brennan made sure to lay down a strong start knowing that her two closest rivals would be hot on her heels.

Brennan crossed the line, followed by Karsten and then Jingli, with the Australian posting the fastest quarter-final time of 7mins 26secs.

Her closest rivals in the other quarter-finals, Genevra Stone of the USA and Emma Twigg of New Zealand, posted times of 7mins 27secs and 7mins 31secs respectively.

Post-race, Brennan was pleased to be back in the leading position.

“It was good to get a solid row out. It didn’t end up being too hard in the end but it was nice to have a look at the field and have a chance to rehearse what it’s going to look like come the semis and the finals,” said Brennan.

“We were fortunate today to have a lot of other Australian crews racing today, so we were having a ball in the warm-up room and that helped keep me relaxed ahead of racing.”

Brennan has been drawn in the semi-final alongside Twigg, which should make for interesting viewing, especially with Brennan posting such a quick quarter-final time.

“Some people look at times, but you line up for each race and a single scull race is quite tactical and you race the race you’re in.

“I will take confidence from today but not too much.”

The men’s pair of Spencer Turrin and Alex Lloyd took to the waters next in their semi-finals and powered out the start alongside the Italians and the French.

The crew were comfortable in the first 500 metres, sitting in second before making their move into first for the middle kilometre of the race.

As the crews approached the halfway mark, the Italians made their move to challenge race leaders Australia, while France also made a surge.

It meant all three crews sprinted for the line, with Italy taking the win and Australia finishing in second to qualify for Thursday’s finals.

The Aussie pair were the third fastest qualifiers to the A-Final. Olympic and world champions New Zealand were the fastest, followed by the Italians.

The women’s double sculls of Sally Kehoe and Genevieve Horton were drawn in a tough semi-final, taking on reigning Olympic champions Great Britain as well as Poland, who had won World Cups 1 and 3 this season.

Kehoe, a three-time Olympian, and Olympic debutant Horton were quick out the start and sat comfortably in third throughout the first half of the race, led by the Poles and the British.

As the crew approached the 1500 metre mark, the French began to make their move to pass the Australians.

With other crews out in front, the battle came down to the Australians and the French as to who would qualify for the A-Final, with the French pipping the Australians to the post to take the place in the A-Final.

The men’s double sculls of Christopher Morgan and David Watts were Australia’s last crew to compete on day four of the regatta.

Drawn in a tough heat with reigning world champions, the Sinkovic brothers of Croatia, it was going to be about who could get out of the start quickest.

The Australians pulled out hard and were amongst the key players in the first half of the race, but once they passed the 1000m mark, the Norwegians and British pulled ahead to chase the leading Croatians, leaving the Australians tussling for fourth and fifth with the New Zealanders.

Australia crossed the line in fifth and will now contest the B-Final on Thursday.

Tomorrow will see the first of Australia’s rowing crews take to the water in an A-Final in a bid to win a medal.

The men’s quadruple sculls will take on Germany, Poland, Estonia, Ukraine and Great Britain in what will no doubt be an exciting race after some tight semi-finals.

The Australian men’s four will race in its semi-final in a bid to finish in the top three and progress to the A-Final.

The crew has been drawn against reigning world champions Italy in their semi as well as well as Russia, USA, Greece and South Africa.

Australia’s women’s eight will compete in the repechage of their boat class in a bid to make the A-Final.

Lucy Benjamin

olympics.com.au