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Reigning gold for defending champions at SIRR 2018

Finals fever arrived today in Penrith at the 2018 Aon Sydney International Rowing Regatta. Plenty of athletes hit the water chasing victory in their respective finals on a cool, rainy day in Penrith. Among these athletes were Australia’s top para-rowers, who raced for the first time at this year’s National Championships.

Twenty-eight singles, doubles and pairs raced today for podium finishes, with the possibility of gold at the end of the two kilometres of the Sydney International Regatta Centre course. Later in the day, 155 schoolboy and schoolgirl entries hit the water in singles and quads, in the first day of the Australian National Schools Championships.

It was the para-rowing that drew quite a crowd to the stands, with the rowers racing their first two-kilometre race in a competitive setting. The PR3 Men’s Single Scull welcomed back two-time defending champion Mac Russell (Queensland University) as well as newcomer Jed Altschwager (Torrens-SASI), who lost his lower leg in an excavating accident two years ago. Russell took out his third win in a time of seven minutes 50 seconds, with Altschwager just under four seconds behind.

Russell, who has an intellectual impairment, said the level of competition in the category was higher than previous years.

“I thought the race went pretty well, it was a bit harder than previous years when I’ve won, I found I got pushed more, there’s more depth in this field now which is good, I like that.”

National Champion in the PR3 M1x, Mac Russell, flanked by Jed Altschwager and James Talbot (Copyright Rowing Australia/Delly Carr)

Altschwager said racing other para-athletes was exciting, especially in his first National competition.

“Being able to go and hit out against the other para-athletes, unlike at home when I’m racing able-bodied competitors, is just awesome.”

In the PR3 Women’s Single Scull, vision impaired and 2016 Rio Paralympian Kathleen Murdoch (Nepean-NSWIS) took out the race, crossing the line 45 seconds ahead of second placed ANU rower Sue Donoghoe.

For Murdoch, winning the race was valuable to ensure she had a strong start to the year.

“I had a really clean start and I just kept my rhythm. It was an excellent start to this year’s campaign so I’m very happy. Para-rowing has grown a lot and each year it’s really wonderful to have more competition.”

In the Under 17 Men’s Single Scull final, it was Patrick Long of St Joseph’s College Nudgee who took out The Piper Cup for the second year in a row.

Long said he focused on his normal routine to keep the boat moving, despite feeling the pressure going into the race.

“I felt as though I was expected to win, so there was a lot of pressure on me. It was a pretty tough race, but I kept moving along and I’m happy came away with the win.”

In the Under 19 Single Scull categories, Taylor McCarthy-Smith (Brisbane & GPS RC/QAS) claimed her second consecutive title in the Women’s event, while Cormac Kennedy-Leverett (Griffith University Surfers Paradise RC/QAS) dominated, winning the Men’s final by three boat lengths.

Taylor McCarthy-Smith (Copyright RA/Delly Carr)

Griffith University Surfers Paradise RC athletes Leukie Smith and Jess Smith continued their club’s strong morning, taking out their second Under 19 Women’s Coxless Pair national title.

In the Open Men’s Single Scull, Adelaide RC and National Training Centre (NTC) athlete, Alexander Hill, trumped fellow NTC athlete Jack Hargreaves by a boat length, while in the female equivalent boat class, defending champion Madeleine Edmunds (Commercial RC/NTC) grabbed the gold in the Open Women’s Single Scull.

Sydney University Boat Club had a brilliant day on the water with their Under 23 Lightweight athletes. Under 23 Lightweight Women’s Single sculler Wallis Russell defended her title, but only by a bow ball over Adelaide RC/SASI athlete Verayna Zilm.

Russell, who is also sister to PR3 athlete Mac Russell, said the race was closer than she would have liked.

“It was so nice to back up last year’s win, even though it was by less than a second. I’ve got four more years in Under 23’s so I’d like to keep it going.”

Alexander Hill is pumped to take out the national title in the Men’s Single Scull (Copyright RA/Delly Carr)

Leon Chambers, also of Sydney University BC, backed up his win last year with another in the Under 23 Lightweight Men’s Single Scull.

Chambers said he hoped the win would set him up for the rest of the week’s races.

“I’m really keen to get into the next few days, I’ve got a stacked schedule but I’m feeling pretty good for them after that race.”

Continuing with the Lightweights, Sarah Pound (University of Technology Sydney RC/NSWIS) took home the gold in the Open Lightweight Women’s Single Scull, while Jack Kelly (Adelaide RC/NTC) crossed the line first in the Open Lightweight Men’s Single Scull.

It was the competition rather than the headwind that challenged Kelly the most.

“I’m pretty exhausted after that one, these boys pushed me hard, but it was good out there.”

National Training Centre athletes Sarah Hawe (Huon RC) and Molly Goodman (Adelaide RC) put on a dominant performance to win the Open Women’s Coxless Pair to win the Sarah Tait Memorial Trophy; while Simon Keenan and Joshua Booth (both of Melbourne University BC/NTC) took out the Open Men’s Coxless Pair to claim the Ted Bromley Memorial Trophy.

Nicela Martincic of St Scholastica qualified fastest for the Schoolgirl’s Single Scull quarter-finals out of 54 competitors. From 43 athletes, it was St Augustine’s NSW rower Connor Hopkins who had the fastest qualifying time for the Schoolboy’s Single Scull quarter-final.

Schoolgirl’s and schoolboy’s rowing continues tomorrow in day five of the regatta.