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Rain fails to dishearten finalists at 2017 Aon Sydney International Rowing Regatta

Day four of the 2017 Aon Sydney International Rowing Regatta brought gloomy skies, cool conditions and water-logged boats, as the rain came over the Blue Mountains and settled in over the course. But the weather did not dishearten the athletes, as they put on an incredible display of talent at the Sydney International Rowing Centre.

Opening the racing today were the Under 19 and Under 17 Single Scull finals. Young talent shone in the likes of Taylor McCarthy-Smith, who led the field to finish strongly and be crowned the Under 19 Women’s Single Scull Champion of Australia.

Cormac Kennedy-Leverett defended his title in the Under 19 Men’s Single Scull to cross the line first followed by Paddy Holt in second, as a battle for third place ensued between Jack Barrett and Harry Crouch. Separated by just 0.08 seconds, North Esk rower Barrett earned the podium finish.

Somerville House claimed both gold and silver in the Under 17 Women’s Single Scull, with Ella Hudson in first place and Laura Chancellor in second. The pair were happy to stand on the podium as competitors, but are looking forward to racing as team mates in the days ahead.

“We set a few goals for ourselves… we’ve always been competing against each other so it’s really good to come together (in the double). It works really well,” said Hudson.

The excitement followed through to the more senior finals too.

In the furthest lane from the Grandstand, Spencer Turrin rowed with grit and determination in the Open Men’s Single Scull to cross the line in first place, followed by UTS’ Hamish Playfair and Olympic silver medallist Cameron Girdlestone who finished in third.

“It was really good… to get over Cammy (Girdlestone), that was the goal. I hadn’t been in the single for a couple of months so it was great to get back in and go alright in it,” said Turrin.

After coming second in 2016, Commercial Rowing Club’s Maddie Edmunds won gold in the Open Women’s Single, in a race which has been highly competitive since the start of the regatta.

As the rain came down in Penrith, the Open Women’s Coxless Pair went down to the wire, as crews laid everything on the line in a quest be the first winners of the inaugural Sarah Tait Memorial Trophy.

This is the first year the trophy has been presented, and was named in honour of the late Sarah Tait, who lost her battle with cervical cancer in March 2016. Tait was a monumental athlete, representing Australia for rowing many times internationally, including winning a silver medal in the Women’s Pair at the 2012 London Olympics.

Tait was a role model to many rowers and athletes, making it fitting she be honoured by having a trophy named in her honour at Nationals.

Today, the top three crews were neck and neck in the last 250 metres, with the rowers exhausting every last bit of energy they had in honouring Tait’s name and memory. The first three crews crossed the finish line separated by just 1.01 seconds.

Finishing in first place were Tasmanian duo of Sarah Hawe (Huon RC) and Meaghan Volker (Buckingham RC), with a time of 7 minutes 20 seconds. Coming second were Mercantile rowers Addy Dudley-Smith and Katrina Werry, followed by Molly Goodman and Georgina Gotch.

With the last part of the race being so hotly contested, champions Hawe and Volker were determined to push to through the other crews.

“With about 300m to go I said to Sarah, ‘We gotta go now!’, and we just went. The last few strokes I remember seeing the red buoys and thinking it’s almost over, just get there… we went to half slide to make sure we got over the line,” said Volker.

They were thrilled to win the race and to have the trophy presented to them in Tait’s honour. “It’s incredible, she was an amazing athlete and to come anywhere close to that, is special,” continued Hawe.

“She was such an amazing woman inside and out, to be the first winners of this and really represent her honour is something of immense pride to me,” added Volker.

The para-rowing finals kicked off the post-lunch racing, with the LTA Single Scull men’s and women’s races.

In the LTA Women’s Single Scull, 2016 Rio Paralympian Kate Murdoch started strong and continued to lead the field throughout the race, to finish in first place with a time of 4 minutes 13 seconds. Murdoch was followed over the line by Emma Jago in second place and Sara Waitzer in third.

With the highest number of entries to date in the LTA Men’s Single Scull, the final promised to be a great race. Amongst competitors in the final, was defending champion Mac Russell from University of Queensland, London Paralympian Kevin du Toit, and George Langa from Team Vanuatu. Russell got off to a strong start and continued to push away from the other boats in the second half to win the race in 3 minutes 41 seconds.

The gold medallist was really happy to be involved in an event with so much competition. “I was so happy to win the race again, and it’s great to see so many guys competing in the race. Later this week, I get to row in the LTA Men’s Single for Queensland, it’s really exciting to be here and I’m looking forward to Sunday,” said Russell.