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SILVER for Men’s Four and Brennan through to final

Article provided courtesy of the Australian Olympic Committee.  Read more here.

The Australian Men’s Four have won silver behind Great Britain and Kim Brennan has qualified comfortably for the single sculls final at Lake Lagoa in Rio.

Alex Hill, Joshua Booth, Joshua Dunkley-Smith and Will Lockwood took on the reigning Olympic champions Great Britain, in what was destined to be a great tussle between the two semi-final winning crews.

Joining Australia and Great Britain were 2015 World Champions Italy and crews from Canada, Netherlands and South Africa.

Right from the start the Australians and the British were the two crews to watch. The Australians were challenging the British at the halfway mark, with only 0.22 of a second separating the two crews.

As they approached the 1500 metre mark the British began to edge away from Australia, by half a boat length, and despite a big push from the Australians the defending champions held on to win by two-thirds of a boat length. Great Britain once again claimed the title that they have not relinquished since the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.

Australia took home the silver in a time of 6mins, 0.44 seconds, while the British finished 1.83 seconds ahead of them to take the gold. 2015 World Champions Italy finished in third.

Speaking of the British dominance, Lockwood was gracious in defeat. “Credit to them, they held strong and had what it took to hold us off,” Lockwood said.

“We were beaten by a better crew today and congratulations to GB for the win. I think both crews were throwing down at the halfway mark and it takes a toll on us, and on them to cover our push, that’s why we started with 400 metres to go, but they held us off and then jumped ahead in the last 250 metres,” admitted Lockwood.

Post-race the crew huddled together, where Dunkley-Smith said they reminded each other about their achievement, rather than their disappointment of not winning gold.

“We wanted to make sure that we collected ourselves and were standing tall and were aware of what we’ve done and how proud everyone is,” Dunkley-Smith said.

Olympic debutant, Hill, admitted he was delighted to have won silver and alongside three crew mates who have supported and mentored him throughout the season.

“It’s a pretty awesome feeling, we were obviously hoping for gold, but really proud of everyone and we laid it all out on the line, but those Brits were very brave too in the race they laid down,” admitted Hill.

“I am really proud of these guys, they’ve been massive mentors for me, all having been Olympians before, Josh [Dunkley-Smith] and Will having that silver medal in London, and Josh [Dunkley-Smith] is mentor for me having previously sat in the stroke seat of this boat [in London], so coming away with a silver is a pretty good feeling for my first Olympic Games,” concluded Hill.

In the women’s single sculls Kim Brennan has qualified comfortably for the final by winning her hotly contested semi-final.

The reigning World Champion took to the water against 2014 World Champion, Emma Twigg of New Zealand as well as crews from Mexico, Zimbabwe, Switzerland and Canada.

After a strong start from all crews Brennan looked to assert her dominance early and take the lead at the 500 metre mark. As the race continued, Brennan lengthened her lead over her competitors, with Twigg in second and Jeannine Gmelin of Switzerland in third.

At the 1500 metre mark Twigg began to make her move on Brennan. The Australian upped her stroke rate and kept her composure. As the two approached the finish line it was Brennan who held on for the win, with Twigg second and a thrilled Gmelin claiming the final spot for the final in third.

Joining Brennan, Twigg and Gmelin in the final on Saturday will be Genevra Stone of the USA, Magdalena Lobnig of Austria and Jingli Duan of China. Surprisingly reigning Olympic champion Mirka Topinkova-Knapkova was fourth and will not race for the medals.

“I’m sure Emma does still have a bit in the tank, so I’m sure tomorrow will be a different race,” said Brennan. “I think I went through the middle part of the race, and realised I was pretty comfortable for a qualifying position.

“We’ve got so much respect for each other [Twigg and Brennan] and the time and effort we put into this, we have this bond that we will share for a long time along with the other competitors in the field. No holds barred out on the water in a race, but you can’t help but respect your competitors,” the 31-year-old Australian said.

Looking ahead to the final, Brennan said it wasn’t just going to be a Trans-Tasman battle.

“It’ll be a ripper of final, it’s not a two-horse race, I think particularly Jingli Duan from China is a very experienced and strong sculler, and as we saw yesterday we can’t write anyone off, I think race your own race but be aware of everyone around you.”

On a damp day in Rio de Janeiro, Rhys Grant was the first Australian down the course, with the 29-year-old racing in the men’s single sculls semi-final.

The West Australian-born athlete was drawn in lane five, alongside the reigning Olympic champion, Mahe Drysdale and fellow Final Olympic Qualification Regatta qualifier, Belgium’s Hannes Obreno.

Needing a top three finish, Grant powered out the start on what was possible the calmest water conditions for rowers, despite the rain.

Keeping up with Drysdale and Obreno, the Australian looked in control of his race and was sat in third for the majority of the first three quarters of the semi-final. As the others began to pull ahead, Grant, giving everything he had with every stroke, was passed in the final 500m by Belarus who snapped up the final A-Final spot. Grant will now contest the B-Final.

Lucy Benjamin