Aussies charge towards London
1 September 2011
Australia has continued its successful start to the 2011 FISA World Rowing Championships by qualifying two more boats for the 2012 London Olympic Games this afternoon in Bled, Slovenia.
Cheered on by a parochial contingent of Australian supporters both the men’s eight and women’s pair won through to their respective A Finals to guarantee Australia representation in both boat classes next year in London.
For the women’s pair it was another remarkable step for the crew that only came together on Tuesday last week following the withdrawal of Phoebe Stanley (VIC) due to cardiac arrhythmia.
2008 Beijing Olympian Kate Hornsey (TAS) was called in to join dual Olympian and Australian co-captain Sarah Tait (VIC) in the crew and in the semi-final today the pair finished second behind New Zealand to confirm their place in the medal race tomorrow.
Hornsey and Tait led world champions New Zealand through 500m, but following New Zealand assuming the lead and a challenge from Romania, the Australian duo upped their pace in the closing stages to finish second behind New Zealand in a time of 7:13.43.
Tait said the pair had come together really well in the last week.
“Our main task when we came here was to qualify the boat and it was a big challenge following the crew change earlier in the week, but we did it,” Tait said. “We can now go into the final with nothing to lose.”
Hornsey reflected on the importance of qualifying the boat for the Olympics.
“We’re very excited and very relieved,” Hornsey said. “Once you’re into the A Final you know you’ve qualified the boat for the Olympics.
“It was a pretty brutal race today and we had to be on our game to get through.”
The Australian men’s eight’s semi-final followed directly afterwards and coxed by Toby Lister (NSW), the crew of Fergus Pragnell (NSW), Matt Ryan (NSW), Bryn Coudraye (SA), Tom Swann (VIC), Francis Hegerty (NSW), Joshua Booth (VIC), James Marburg (VIC) and John Linke (VIC) finished third behind Great Britain and Canada.
Australia held off a challenge from China over the closing 500m to claim the final qualifying spot for the final in a time of 5:33.79, finishing just over half a boat length behind Great Britain.
2008 Olympic silver medallist from the men’s four, James Marburg, said the crew came to do a specific job.
“The first step is to qualify the boat for the Olympics and we missed out on doing that initially in 2007 so to do it this time around at the first stage is exciting,” Marburg said.
“Semi-final racing at world champs is do or die and we’re happy to just get through and can now have a real crack in the final.”
In other racing on Day 4 of the world championships, Australia’s women’s lightweight quad scull also qualified for the A Final with a commanding win in their repechage.
Ella Flecker (TAS), Maia Simmonds (WA), Hannah Jansen (WA) and Alexandra Hayes (WA) won their repechage by close to five seconds over Germany in a time of 6:41.29.
The Australian men’s four of Joshua Dunkley Smith (VIC), Nicholas Purnell (NSW), Drew Ginn (VIC) and Sam Loch (NSW) also controlled their repechage to safely progress to the semi-final stage of competition.
Guided by stroke Dunkley Smith, Australia recorded a time of 5:57.87 and on Saturday will have a chance to secure Australia’s place in the boat category in London next year with a top three finish in the semi-final.
The lightweight women’s double scull of Hannah Every-Hall (QLD) and Alice McNamara (VIC) also won their repechage to progress to the semi-finals, leading home Belgium by over four seconds in a time of 7:06.17.
The lightweight men’s pair of Blair Tunevitsch (TAS) and Tom Gibson (TAS) won through to the A Final with a second place finish in their semi-final. Tunevitsch and Gibson crossed second behind Great Britain in 6:39.71.
Nicholas Hudson (NSW) finished fourth in his heat of the men’s single scull and will now race for a place in the C Final.
Australia will contest four A Finals on Day 5 (Thursday 1 September), while a further three crews will race in semi-finals.