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Singles shine through on rainy day

Day three of the 2018 Aon Sydney International Rowing Regatta was met with plenty of close races with athletes vying to qualify for A-Finals. The cooler conditions and rain in Penrith today did not deter the efforts of open and underage athletes, with some fierce competition setting up exciting races for the first day of finals tomorrow (Thursday).

The excitement started early with the Under 19 Men’s and Women’s Single Scull semi-finals posting some thrilling results. It was Cormac Kennedy-Leverett (Griffith University Surfers Paradise RC/QAS), the defending champion from last year’s event, who recorded the fastest overall time in the Men’s races. His time of seven minutes 20 seconds was nine seconds quicker than the next fastest Angus Dawson (St Peter’s College/SASI).

Kennedy-Leverett said that he’s enjoying competing this week and isn’t feeling the pressure despite winning last year.

“I just go out there and try my hardest and try not to let the pressure get to me. My racing is pretty much what I’ve been looking for, just trying to tick the boxes up until Junior [Australian Rowing Team] selections. I’m really enjoying the atmosphere, having the numbers of athletes and a lot of interstate mates, you can see everyone at once.”

The 17-year-old wasn’t bothered by today’s rainy weather and stuck to his normal race plan.

“You just row to the conditions and have a bit of fun, it doesn’t really change it too much for me. Rowing is pretty simple, there’s no need to make it complicated.”

The other standings in the semi-finals make for an exciting final tomorrow, with photo finishes in both races. Joe Lovrich (ANA RC), the son of Australian Olympic silver medallist Tony Lovrich, finished 0.13 seconds ahead of Ash Nicholls (Sydney RC) in the first semi-final. It was a battle between the two athletes from Team Japan in the second race with only a bow ball separating Shunsuke Shimada and Hiroki Aoki who took second and third place.

In the Women’s Under 19 Single Scull semi-finals, it was the 2017 defending champion who marked herself as firm favourite for tomorrow’s final. Taylor McCarthy-Smith (Brisbane & QPS RC/QAS) won  her race by a boat length, coming in ahead of her Under 19 Women’s Double Scull partner, Laura Chancellor, by two seconds. McCarthy-Smith crossed the line in a time of eight minutes eight seconds to record the fastest time of the day.

Today presented enjoyable conditions for McCarthy-Smith, who said that she’s feeling strong and ready for tomorrow’s final.

“I felt way more relaxed today and it helps that the temperature has dropped so I wasn’t breathing really heavily, it’s a nice change. I’ve been feeling pretty good, the racing’s been really fun and obviously I want to win it again.”

Currently vying for selection for the 2018 Junior Australian Rowing Team and also for a spot in the Australian Youth Olympic Team, McCarthy-Smith uses the pressure she puts on herself to motivate her.

“No one puts pressure on me, I put it on myself. The all just say to give it your best go, everyone has put a lot of faith in me.”

Unsurprisingly, it was National Training Centre athletes that dominated the Open Men’s and Women’s Single Scull semi-finals. Madeleine Edmunds (Commercial RC/NTC) recorded the fastest time in the women’s event in seven minutes 54 seconds, which saw her win her race by two boat lengths. Recently named in the 2018 Australian Rowing Team in the Single Scull, Edmunds will go  into tomorrow’s final as favourite to retain the title she won last year.

2017 World Rowing Championships gold medallist Jack Hargreaves (Sydney University Boat Club/NTC) recorded the fastest time in the Open Men’s Single Scull in seven minutes five seconds. In exciting news for Team Ireland, Olympic silver medallist Paul O’Donovan (Skibbereen RC) will feature as the sole international athlete in tomorrow’s final.

The athletes battled through the increasingly rainy conditions throughout the afternoon. Stuartholme School duo Sophia Tully and Emma Tucker impressed in the Under 17 Women’s Double Scull semi-finals as the fastest qualifiers for Friday’s final. In the Under 17 Men’s Double Scull semi-finals it was also schools that shined, with Ben McMillian and Leyton Friedrich from St Joseph’s College Nudgee recording the quickest time.

The end of the day saw the big boats hit the water for the first time, with the Under 19 Women’s Coxed Eight heats taking place. In the first heat, Queenwood School for Girls’ put their strong rowing program to display, as the silver medallists in the 2017 National Schoolgirl’s Championship won their heat in six minutes 48 seconds in what was a closely contested race.

Tomorrow will see the first medals of the regatta be awarded, with the Under 17 Women’s Single Scull A-Final at 8:00am.