LEAVING US IN OAR
Wednesday, 23 May 2012
Categories: Rowing - International
London bound: The Australian eight oarswomen celebrate their win in Lucerne, Switzerland, and their qualification for the London Olympics. Picture: DETLEV SEYB/myrowingphoto.com
Australian eight beats officialdom and the doubters
By LORISSE DART
THE boat Rowing Australia said was not good enough to even contemplate for the London Olympics this morning qualified for the Games.
The Australian women’s eight easily won its final – and the only chance it had to qualify for London – at the qualification regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland, crossing the line with clear water between it and Germany and Belarus.
The Germans also qualified for London by holding off the Belarusians by just .44 seconds.
There were emotional scenes from the Aussie crew after they crossed the line, which overflowed once it reached the winner's pontoon.
It was just their second competitive race, and for half the crew — the self-proclaimed "motley crew" — it was their first international regatta.
It is an extraordinary feat by the oarswomen, who have been training as a crew for only two months and who were told by RA chiefs as early as March that, despite the anger among the rowing fraternity, they would not budge from their decision to not have a women’s eight in the team.
The women’s eight has carried the tag of the “cursed boat” after the past two Olympics; Sally Robbins stopped rowing in Athens and the boat finished last in Beijing.
But this crop of oarswomen refused to give in, and after lobbying from the rowing community that included a controversial blog, the involvement of women’s groups, talk of legal action and circling media, RA caved in and agreed to put an eight on the water.
The determined crew impressed during its preparations and was sent to Lucerne for its one and only chance to qualify for London, with the first two countries across the line getting a spot.
It led from start to finish in its race for lanes on Monday morning, and from the comfort of the middle lane early this morning it was in control of the five-country final by the halfway mark (1000m), and crossed the line in 6min 12.36sec – 3.31sec ahead of Germany (6:15.67).
Belarus, which had lost its grip on second to Germany by the 1500m mark, was a ripple away third (6:16.11), followed by Ukraine (6:18.01) and Russia (6:23.58).
The eight is: coxswain Liz Patrick, stroke Phoebe Stanley, Sally Kehoe, Robyn Selby-Smith and Sarah Cook, Hannah Vermeersch, Alex Hagan, Tess Gerrand, Renee Chatterton.
They will head to the European Training Centre in Italy to prepare for the Games that start on July 27.
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