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Bronzed Aussies: Eights, Rigney finish with a flurry to close out World Championships

Onwards and upwards: The Women’s Eight jump for joy after a securing a Bronze Medal and a quota spot for the boat at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Photo: Vera Bucsu/Rowing Australia

By Rupert Guinness with the Australian Rowing Team in Belgrade

Australia firmed its status as a force in the blue riband Eights for Men and Women on Sunday with both boats winning Bronze Medals in the World Rowing Championships in Belgrade.

Australia signed off the World Championships with triple-Bronze. Along with the two Eights, Tara Rigney took Bronze in the Women’s Single Scull, backing up her breakthrough performance in 2022 that also saw her finish third. Australia ended the regatta with one Gold, one Silver and three Bronze medals.

The World Championships were also important to qualify boats for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris. On Sunday, Australia qualified three more boats for the Olympics – the Men’s Eight and Women’s Eight and the Women’s Double Scull that placed second in the B Final.

That saw Australia finish the regatta with nine boats qualified so far in the Olympics and three boats for the Paralympics.

On Sunday, and in hot but relatively calm conditions with the occasional puff of headwind, Australia’s Women’s Eight of Lily Alton, Paige Barr, Georgie Gleeson, Olympia Aldersey, Georgie Rowe, Jacqueline Swick, Molly Goodman, Bronwyn Cox (Stroke) and Hayley Verbunt (Cox) ignited the medal run.

The John Keogh-coached boat led from the start and was still in first place at 1000m, with a 1.21s lead over Romania and 1.90s on Canada. Romania made a big push in the third 500m to get their bow in front of Australia at the 1500m where only 0.44s separated them.

Romania pushed ahead in the last 500m to win well, while a late charge by the United States saw them pass the Australians near the line and pip them for the Silver Medal. Romania won Gold in 6:01.28, the United States Silver in 6:03.73 and Australia Bronze in 6:04.17, followed by Great Britain in 6:05.40, Canada in 6:07.15 and Italy in 6:09.23.

Stroke Bronwyn Cox said the Australian boat’s great race in the Final was largely due to the crew putting together the strengths of their Heat and Repechage during the week.

“We wanted to come out on top, but we wanted to complete a full race as best as we could by putting the two parts together. We did that as best as we could. I am really proud of what we put out.”

Cox praised her crewmates and especially for how they have managed the diversity in ages and experience in the boat.

“Even though one person may be more experienced than the other, it doesn’t mean that other person’s point of view and idea isn’t as valuable,” she said. “It’s about learning to take feedback and respecting what each other has to say.”

The Men’s Eight, coached by Mark Prater, also attacked the A Final with no fear. Great Britain led out of the start, but at 500m were clear by only 0.06s over Australia. At 1000m, Australia were in front by the same margin after a big push; but then Great Britain responded to take back the lead by the 1500m.

Great Britain then took control, while the Australian Eight of Kendall Brodie (Cox), Angus Widdicombe, Angus Dawson, Jack O’Brien, Jack Robertson, Tim Masters, Ben Canham, Josh Hicks and Paddy Holt found themselves in a mighty battle with The Netherlands and Romania for the remaining medals.

Great Britain won Gold in 5:24.20, while The Netherlands took the Silver in 5:25.23 and Australia the Bronze in 5:26.65.

Stroke Angus Widdicombe said the crew did all they could to end a campaign that included their win in World Cup III at Lucerne in July. This world title Bronze Medal confirms the Australian Eight’s performance there was no flash in the pan.

“I am stoked for the boys,” Widdicombe said afterwards. “They threw it out there. We stuck to our guns and we will come back better for it next year. The Eight moves on every year. Everyone gets a little faster. They will be going be a bit faster next year, and we proved [today] that we can throw our hats into the room for the medals. We just have to try to get it right on the on the day for the big one [in Paris.]”

Tara Rigney’s Bronze Medal win in the Women’s Single Scull on the back of a Bronze last year and two World Cup Silvers this year confirmed her Olympics campaign is well on track.

The Gold Medal was won by the defending champion, Karolien Florijn of The Netherlands, in 7:14.35. Florijn led from the start and never looked in doubt.

The Silver was won by Olympic champion Emma Twigg of New Zealand in 7:19.43. Twigg in lane two, passed Rigney who was in lane five, in the second 500m and was ahead of her at the 1000m. Rigney still raced well to consolidate third place in 7:21.07. In their wake were scullers from the United States in 7:23.98, Bulgaria in 7:24.08 and Lithuania in 7:35.20.

Rigney’s coach, Ellen Randell, believes the three-time Australian Champion should be “very proud” “of her Bronze.

“She tried to go out with Karolien and then move with her,” Randell said. “Obviously Karolien’s at a different level right at the minute, but she did she did a great third 500m and put herself in a position. But she did just didn’t have the legs to get over the top of her. Next year … looking forward to that.”

B Finals:

The Women’s Double Scull of Amanda Bateman and Laura Gourley unleashed a mighty finish in an already nail-biting race to place second and qualify the boat for the Olympics.

Only 0.07 separated the first three. Italy won in 6:53.71 from Australia in 6:53.76, Norway in 6:53.78; China in 6:55.11; 5, the Netherlands in 6:55.72; and South Africa in 6:56.30

“I’m so proud of the girls like that was exactly what they set out to do,” coach Halley Chapman said. “They stayed very calm, despite everybody else going absolutely nuts around them, and they did exactly what they wanted to do.”

 C Finals

Alex Rossi continued his remarkable season by placing third in the Men’s Single Scull. It is quite the achievement for someone who was brought into the squad as a ‘spare’ and late; and off the back of racing in the Under 23  World Championships where he won a Bronze Medal in the Quad Scull. His entry into the Single Scull at the World Championships was only made 10 days before the started.

In the C Final, Rossi gave it everything, rating as high as 42 strokes per minute to finish strongly and almost challenge for second place. The winner was Tim Brys of Belgium in 6:50,08. In second was Lucas Verthein Ferreira of Brazil in 6:53.08. Rossi was third in 6:55.03. Then came scullers from Monaco in 6:56.94, Portugal in 7:03.39 and Hungary in 7:13.15.

D Finals

In the Men’s Double Scull Cormac Kennedy-Leverett and Harley Moore were third behind Greece who won in 6:16.75. Cuba was second in 6:18.76, and Australia third in 6:21.89, followed by Belgium in 6:24.07 and South Africa in 6:26.99.

Day 8: Full Australian Results

Men’s PR1 Single Scull
Sculler: Erik Horrie OAM (Coach Chad King)
Result (A Final): 1. UKR 8:59.60; 2. ITA 9:04.40; 3. GBR 9:09.43; 4. GER 9:16.17; 5. ISR 9:17.81; 6. AUS DNS (due to medical reasons)
Ranking: 6th

Men’s Single Scull
Sculler: Alex Rossi (Coach: Don McLachlan)
Result (C Final): 1. BEL 6:50.08; 2. BRA 6:53.08; 3. AUS 6:55.03; 4.MON 6:56.94; 5. POR 7:03.39; 6. HUN 7:13.15
Ranking: 15th

Men’s Double Scull
Crew: Cormac Kennedy-Leverett, Harley Moore (Coaches: Rhett Ayliffe/Lyall McCarthy)
Result (D Final):  1. GRE 6:16.75; 2. CUB 6:18.76; 3. AUS 6:21.89; 4. BEL 6:24.07; 5. RSA 6:26.99; 6. BUL DNS 0:00:00
Ranking: 21st

Men’s Eight
Crew: Kendall Brodie (Coxswain), Angus Widdicombe, Angus Dawson, Jack O’Brien, Jack Robertson, Tim Masters, Ben Canham, Josh Hicks, Paddy Holt (Coach: Mark Prater)
Result (A Final): 1. GBR 5:24.20; 2. NED 5:25.23; 3. AUS 5:26.65; 4. ROU 5:27.57; 5. GER 5:28.39;6. USA 5:29.18
Ranking: 3rd 

Women’s Single Scull
Sculler: Tara Rigney (Coach Ellen Randall)
Result (A Final): 1. NED 7:14.35; 2. NZL 7:19.43; 3 AUS 7:21.07; 4. USA 7: 23.98; 5. Bulgaria 7:24.08; 6. LTU 7.25.30
Ranking: 3rd 

Women’s Double Scull
Crew: Amanda Bateman, Laura Gourley (Coach: Halley Chapman)
Result (B Final): 1. ITA 6:53.71. 2. AUS 6:53.76; 3. NOR 6:53.78; 4. CHN 6:55.11; 5. NED 6:55.72; 6. RSA 6:56.30; 7
Ranking: 8th

Women’s Eight
Crew: Hayley Verbunt (Cox), Lily Alton, Paige Barr, Georgie Gleeson, Olympia Aldersey, Georgina Rowe, Jacqueline Swick, Molly Goodman, Bronwyn Cox (Coach: John Keogh).
Result (A Final): 1. ROM 6:01.28; 2. USA 6:03.73; 3. AUS 6:04.17; 4. GBR 6:05.40; 5. CAN 6:07.15; 6. ITA 6:09.23
Ranking: 3rd