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Paralympians dazzle at the 2017 Aon Sydney International Rowing Regatta

The rain may have departed from Penrith but the wind arrived as competitors at the 2017 Aon International Rowing Regatta faced another day of tough conditions and even tougher racing.

Four para-rowing finals featured on today’s card, including returning Rio rowing Paralympians Kate Murdoch, Erik Horrie and Kathryn Ross, alongside Curtis McGrath, a gold medallist in the Sprint Canoe in the Rio Paralympic Games.

In the Legs, Trunk and Arms (LTA) Mixed Double Scull final, it was Nepean athlete Murdoch, combining with Balmain athlete Kevin Wall, who triumphed.

“I was really happy with that race, and really happy to get it with Kevin in the double today,” stated Murdoch.

As for the Trunk and Arms (TA) Men’s Single Scull, Horrie and McGrath battled it out down the course. It was an exceptional effort from both athletes, as Horrie was competing up in class, and it was McGrath’s first time in an official Para-rowing final.

“Coming in second, it’s not always the place everyone wants to be in, but up against another category I’m over the moon with second place,” said a competitive Horrie.

McGrath seemed equally as pleased with his maiden National Championships title.

“It was a good birthday present! I can go away with a lot of improving points, I know it felt good. It’s an exciting start,” declared McGrath.

Kathryn Ross also returned to competition in fine form, with a gold medal in the TA Women’s Single Scull.

As a gusty headwind blew down the course, the racing began with some exciting Men’s and Women’s Double Scull finals.

Sky Froebel from Melbourne-VIS and Taylor McCarthy-Smith from Brisbane-GPS had opened up an outstanding 12-second lead with 500 metres remaining, and extended that to 16 seconds by the time they crossed the finish line to win the Under 19 Women’s Double Scull final in a great time of 7 minutes, 33 seconds.

Yesterday the duo finished first and second in the Sculling event of the same age group, however today they enjoyed the opportunity to be placed together.

“It was really good! It was fun but also difficult at the same time because we had to really push ourselves,” remarked McCarthy-Smith.

Their controlling win over Adelaide Scott from UTS and Lily Cathcart from Melbourne, who finished second, made it seem like they had been rowing together for quite a while, however, Froebel pointed out that this was not the case.

“We jumped in the boat for the first time together only a couple of days ago. It was easy to join up and work together,” said Froebel.

In what was a remarkable feat of rowing, Newington College athletes Alex Nichol and Harry Crouch won the final of the Under 19 Men’s Double Scull and the final of the Under 19 Men’s Coxed Four, all within 50 minutes.

Crouch credited the motivation of the other two boys in the crew for making them able to pull off the latter of the wins.

“It was tough, I had a bit of doubt but we just pushed through it. Thankfully I had these boys pulling us along, telling us we could do it, it was really good,” said Crouch.

What was even more outstanding, is that they were in third position with only 250 metres remaining. Nichol stated that they had to dig deep to be able to come over the top of Geelong Grammar and Geelong College to become National Champions.

“We had to come together right in that moment, and we did,” explained an elated Nichol.

Having recently trialled for the Senior Australian Rowing Team, Caleb Antill from ANU/NTC_Canberraand Henry Youl from Tamar came out in their final of the Under 23 Men’s Double Scull with a point to prove in a bid to gain an invitation to the upcoming Underage Trials.

They quickly established a lead, and fought hard to maintain that margin, recording a six second victory to be crowned National Champions in a time of 6 minutes, 46 seconds. Antill and Youl spoke about what they plan to do this year following this race.

“We haven’t done a whole lot of rowing together, but the further we went on in the race we started to come together well. We are focused on the Under 23 trials now, our plan is just to go as fast as we can and it should all work out,” said Antill and Youl.

Team Hong Kong found the podium today in the Under 23 Lightweight Men’s Double Scull, finishing in third position thanks to the work of Yuk Man Chan and San Tung Lam. They dug a deep for a huge final 500 metres, narrowly missing second place after being fourth at the 1500 metre mark.

Finally, it was the UTS Composite-NSWIS that championed the Open Lightweight Men’s Coxed Eight. In a tightly contested race between some top quality crews, James Chuter stroked the crew to a five second win in a time of 5 minutes 50 seconds, proving that competitive racing in this boat class is alive and well. Congratulations also must go to the Toowong/Corio Bay crew who finished second, and the Mercantile Composite who finished third.

A huge day of finals tomorrow will all be live streamed on the SIRR website, beginning yet again at 8 a.m.