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Australia’s LTA Mixed Coxed Four quietly confident of securing 2016 Paralympic berth

Crew is preparing at AIS European Training Centre ahead of the Final Paralympic Qualification Regatta in Gavirate, Italy

Australia’s Legs, Trunk and Arms Mixed Coxed Four will this week attempt to qualify into one of the two final berths available for their boat class at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. The crew of Brock Ingram, Jeremy McGrath, Davinia Lefroy, Kate Murdoch and coxswain Jo Burnand must finish top two at the Final Paralympic Qualification Regatta which takes place in Gavirate, Italy from 21-23 April.

The crew is currently based at the Australian Institute of Sport’s European Training Centre in Gavirate, Italy. Prior to departing for Europe the crew took part in a training camp at the Reinhold Batschi National Training Centre, Canberra under the supervision of coaches Gordon Marcks and Tara Huntly.

During their time in Italy the crew will be based at the Australian Institute of Sport’s European Training Centre just a short walk from the lake and the regatta itself.

Speaking last week at the camp in the Australian Capital Territory, coxswain Jo Burnand said: “I’m really excited by this crew, it’s been a crew that, even from the first few strokes we took, there was a really good feeling about it, and that perpetuates itself too. I have had times where I am out on the water, where we are doing pieces, and I get goose bumps as the boat is moving really well.”

The Mosman RC member first coxed the LTA crew last season in Aiguebelette at the 2015 World Rowing Championships and knows that, should they qualify, it would be an honour: ““I think it would be something that if I think about it, it’s something I have been moving towards over three decades [to represent Australia at a Paralympic Games], without actually realising it.

“I’ve been in and out of rowing, right up to the elite level, but there is something about this group of athletes and working with them that is a real honour and I think as a crew we work well together. Putting on the green and gold is always a great honour but to do it at a Paralympic Games would just be amazing.”

Echoing Burnand’s sentiments, crewmate Kate Murdoch said: “We’ve really established a very nice base, which has real control, getting more length and it feels like a stronger boat this season. I can definitely feel the commitment that each person is giving when they receive the calls and we all seem to be on the right page.

“To qualify the boat would be fantastic, it’s been a long time, even though it hasn’t really been that long, it feels like something I’ve been aiming towards for about six years. Last year felt like it was in reaching distance and then we did not quite make it to the next stage, so should we qualify and finally get there and get that confirmation, it would be fantastic, that all the hard work has been for the right cause, it would amazing.”

The third female member of the crew, Davinia Lefroy is making her debut this year in the Australian Rowing Team, alongside fellow West Australian Rowing Club member, Brock Ingram. Lefroy rowed at school but later went to surfboat rowing before returning to competing on calmer waters.

The clinical psychologist who is normally based in Perth relishes the sport of rowing saying: “From a disability perspective [Lefroy is nationally classified LTA-B3, with a visual impairment], I enjoy that there is something I can do relatively well and it’s not about my impairment. I also like the meditative aspects to it where you can sit out there in silence and there’s a real rhythm to the moment and you just flow into it and get some quiet.”

The new elite team environment is something Lefroy is also enjoying: “From a performance perspective it has been really challenging, but in a good way. It is different to all the environments I have rowed in – the school one, the surfboat one, the club one and now this – all have their little differences and actually find it interesting how different they all are.

“What I particularly enjoy in the more elite rowing environment is the thought that is put into even the smallest of things, yourself, your body, your sport, it’s been nice to be so meticulous about things.”

The crew have the opportunity to stay in what is consider the Australian Rowing Team’s ‘home-away-from-home’, the AIS ETC in Gavirate. Something that Murdoch is extremely happy about: “Having stayed at the AIS ETC for the last two years while competing for Australia, it really is like a home to us.

“With a vision impairment, to be able to learn the environment and learn how to get from A to B, for me it’s just a huge thing that I don’t have to worry about learning all over again when we get to the ETC, because I have already learnt it, I can already predict areas where it may get tricky, or areas where I am going to get tired and find things frustrating and to come in with that preparation is a huge advantage for me.”

To read an article with the male members of the crew, Brock Ingram and Jeremy McGrath click here.

To see the entries for the LTA Mixed Coxed Four Final Paralympic Qualification Regatta, click here.