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Letcher on track to defend U23 National title

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Day three of the 2016 Sydney International Rowing Regatta (SIRR 2016) opened with first class sculling, with many semi-finals taking place out in Penrith. One to watch this regatta is defending U23 National Men’s Single Scull Champion, Luke Letcher, who took to the water today in the semi-final of the U23 Men’s Single Sculls.

Letcher led the first semi-final from start to finish and on Thursday morning and will defend his title in the final here the Sydney International Regatta Centre. In summarising the race, Letcher said: “The race went pretty well, I was mainly focussing on being relaxed and calm, as semi-finals can be tense so it’s important to remain focussed and relaxed. Once I was relaxed I could focus on taking the lead and holding off any challengers coming up. There was a solid head breeze out there for the whole race so it certainly wasn’t a fast race but the rain held off which was good.”

The second semi-final of the Under 23 Men’s single scull provided tight racing, with Tom Schramko claiming the victory while positions three to five finished within less than a one second margin of each other. Schramko finished second to Letcher in the final of the same event last year and the duo went on to row for Australia in its U23 Men’s Double Scull at the 2015 Under 23 World Rowing Championships.

Letcher said, about rowing against team-mate Schramko: “Tom and I are good mates, we rowed together in the U23 Men’s Double for Australia last year, and we’ve spent time together most of this week. Obviously I am the defending champion, but I’m approaching this with a clean slate, I can’t take any comfort in winning last year as that would be foolish, everyone has stepped up their game this year. Tom is obviously the main threat having won the other semi-final, but there are a lot of people going fast.”

Opening the racing today was the semi-finals of the Open Women’s Single Scull and in wet conditions Kerry Hore led Sally Kehoe to win in a time of 8:04:76, while in the second semi-final Madeleine Edmunds led over Team Thailand’s Phuttharaksa Neegree to win in 8:02:70. All of these scullers will progress to the A Final, which is sure to produce some close racing on Thursday morning.

In the semi-finals of the Open Men’s Single Scull, Cameron Girdlestone snapped up the win and joining him in the final on Thursday from his heat will be Nicholas Purnell, David Watts and James McRae. In the second semi-final is was win for Chris Morgan, followed by Karsten Forsterling, Max McQueeney, and Wilson Mure.

Australian Rowing Team member, Genevieve Horton was also in action today, competing the semi-final of the Under 23 Women’s Single Scull, Horton won in 7:57.10 in clear water to progress to the A Final, while the other semi-final was won by ACT’s Cara Grzeskowiak.

In the LTA Men’s Single Scull heats, Kevin du Toit won the first, followed by Alistair Chong and both will progress straight to the A Final on Thursday afternoon. Mac Russell and Brock Ingram finished in the top two places in the other semi-final to book their spots alongside two-time Paralympian du Toit and Chong.

In the Under 19 Women’s Double Scull repechages, the crews from Melbourne University Composite, Melbourne Rowing Club, Mosman and Rockhampton Grammar Composite all progressed to the semi-finals, and join those who have already qualified through from the heats. With Melbourne Rowing Club finished second in the same event last year, they will no doubt be looking to challenge for a podium finish again this year.

In the Under 19 Men’s Double Scull repechage, Oxenford Composite, Swan River, Rockhampton Grammar, North Esk, Nudgee, University of Queensland Composite, Mosman Composite, and Pultney Grammar Composite all secured spots the semi-finals of this boat class. With the top times from each of these repechages looking very similar, Thursday’s semi-finals are sure to be a hotly contested event.

It was a positive start to the afternoon for the international crews at the event, who are here preparing for the Asian and Oceania Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in April. In the Open Women’s Lightweight Double Sculls repechages, Team Hong Kong, Team Indonesia and Team Thailand, alongside Australian crew Huon Composite, all progressed to the A-Final on Friday. In the male equivalent race, Team Indonesia, Team Vietnam and two crews from Team Thailand placed in the top four positions to allow them to move through to the A-Final.

The repechages of the Under 19 Women’s Eight allowed crews from Loreto Normanhurst, PLC Perth, Walford Anglican and Friends School to progress to the A-Final. They will join Firbank Grammar, Loreto Kirribilli, University of Queensland, and Kinross Wolaroi in the final to take place on Saturday.

Tomorrow sees the first of the 2016 event’s A-Finals, with the finals of the U19 Women’s Single Scull kicking-off a full day of action from 8am.