NSW Brings down the house

21 January 2007

In a day dominated by Great Britain, New South Wales saved their best for last by winning gold in the men’s eight, the final event of the 2007 Australian Youth Olympic Festival rowing competition.

Great Britain took home four out of a possible six gold medals today, winning all women’s events and easily claiming top spot on the medal tally. New Zealand won the other gold medal on offer with victory in the men’s quad scull. Tasmania finished as the most successful Australian state, with 2 gold medals.

Rowers and spectators endured scorching temperatures of around 37 degrees celcius at the Sydney International Regatta Centre, Penrith today, with teams such as New South Wales utilising ice baths between races to keep cool.

NSW, enjoyed the excitement of a home crowd, with two silver medals followed by a thrilling men’s eight victory with a time of 6m19.7s. The crew of Luke Freeman, Luke Woods, Alistair Matthews, David Neuhaus, Andrew Conolly, Mitchell Estens, Bede Clarke, Kurt Spencer and coxswain Troy Lister threw their arms in the air as they crossed the finish line. The boys sang the national anthem loudly and proudly after receiving their medals.

“It feels great,” said Conolly, “As a state, New South Wales has come against the big boys of rowing in New Zealand and Great Britain and really served it out to them.”

Estens was thrilled that their team tactics paid off with victory. “The plan going into the race was pretty much attack early on…and when you put in a solid start in an eights race you put yourself in it to win it,” he said. “You don’t know the feeling of satisfaction right here, right now. It’s great.”

Great Britain could be considered unlucky not to have added the men’s eight to their victory list. British performance director David Tanner has revealed that at the 1000 metre mark, the crew lost control of an oar, forcing the boat to stop before they could continue.

“The men’s eight were a bit unlucky, they caught what we call in rowing a crab at about 1000 metres when they were just ahead and that put them into third place actually, so they did well to come second. They’re a little bit disappointed, but they’ll learn from that – that’s sport,” he said.

Despite this, the British team are very happy with their efforts this weekend.

“We’re extremely pleased with it. We had no assumptions before we came here about how we’d do and what the opposition would be. The opposition has been tough, and we’re really pleased with our results on the medal table,” Tanner said.

Great Britain won gold today in the women’s quad, women’s and men’s coxless four and the women’s eight. New South Wales again flew the flag for Australia in the women’s eight, finishing second, followed by Victoria. It was New South Wales’ third silver of the day, also finishing second in the women’s coxless four and the men’s quad.

Alexandra Handley from New South Wales, who won silver medals in the eight and coxless four, was ecstatic with the results.

“(I’m) very, very pleased. We were hoping to medal. We were after the gold of course, everyone is, but we were very happy with the silver,” she said. “We did the best we could and I think our best was good enough.”

Youth Olympic ambassador for rowing and Tasmanian team manager, Anthony Edwards believes the competition has been a major success. Edwards has represented Australia in rowing at three Olympics, winning two silver medals and a bronze.

“I think it’s a fantastic competition…a great introduction to the sport. It’s great to see that our states of Australia can compete with each other and actually mix it with the best in the world,” he said.

Edwards has enjoyed the chance to help younger rowers as they strive for success. “It’s just good to be around and be a source of motivation or give some sort of insight to the athletes and show them what it’s all about,” he said.

The next chance for these young rowers to compete against each other will be the junior world championships in August this year. The event, hosted by China will use venues built for the 2008 Olympics.

Until then, they will be able to reflect on a hot, competitive and enjoyable weekend of rowing at the 2007 Australian Youth Olympic Festival.

Brett Watson

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