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History of Begonia City Ladies Rowing Club in Victoria Australia

History of Begonia City Ladies Rowing Club

1972 - Own regatta

The racing for this year started when the club had two crews travel to Yarrawonga for the regatta held on New Year’s Day. They were racing in the Ladies Open four event which was the only women’s event on the traditional program. The number 1 crew of Delwyn Milne, Lynda Gullock, Irene Hatt and club Captain Jan Madin placed third in the Open four event, which was quite an achievement for Novice and Maiden rowers. The girls were “billeted out” for the weekend by families in Yarrawonga. Billeting out was quite common in the early days of women’s rowing as the expense and difficulty of travelling to regattas was still very much a reality for most clubs. They also borrowed boats from other clubs as they did not have boat trailers to load their boats on and many of them were too young to have their licence anyway. Parents were often relied on for transport.

The next big challenge for the club was to run their own regatta and this took place on the 6th of February 1972. This was the first time a women’s regatta had been held on Lake Wendouree, the first time that women rowers had raced on the Lake and the Begonia City rose to the challenge magnificently. With the assistance of Ballarat Rowing Association, and support of the Victorian Ladies Rowing Association, the regatta was an outstanding success. The three men’s clubs also assisted with equipment and facilities. And Ballarat City Rowing Club provided coaching to the crews who were to compete at the regatta.

oarswomen newspaper article

outstanding success newspaper article

women's regatta newspaper article

Articles from the Ballarat Courier, late January 1971.

First Annual Regatta, February 6th, 1972

The first regatta was a phenomenal success and a significant point in Lake Wendouree’s rowing history. It was the best display of co-operation between the three Ballarat men’s rowing clubs in years, coming together to support the women in hosting regatta. All the male club’s loaned equipment and hosted visiting clubs in their boatsheds. The standard of competition, organisation and spectator attendance were all far above expectations. The Begonia City Ladies scored wins in the Novice fours and Novice pairs. This was an outstanding achievement for girl’s who had been rowing for five short months.

the fairer sex takes to water newspaper article

regatta program page

Article from Courier and page from Regatta Program

Six other ladies clubs competed. The Lakeside Club came from South Australia to compete and the other clubs were all Victorian - Dimboola, Essendon, Melbourne University, Nestles and YWCA.

Ballarat City Rowing Club offered use of the upstairs of the boatshed for the day so that the ladies could use the hall and kitchen for afternoon tea. A small donation from Begonia City Ladies RC committee was requested for this. The officials for the regatta were provided by the Ballarat Rowing Association. There were 16 events on the program including a Men’s Invitation four-oared race. There was also the first Victorian Schoolgirl Championship race which was raced in an open (tub) pair. Kim Butler and Lois Schmidt raced in the first and final against Nestles pair of D. Edge and M. Tonkin and YWCA’s D. Galbraith and A. Buckle. They were the first schoolgirl crew to race in Ballarat. As they both attended Ballarat High School, they were also the first female Ballarat High School rowers to compete until rowing was introduced to the school program in 1980. President of Ballarat City Rowing Club Ralph Murphy was their coach.

Members of the Begonia City Women’s Rowing Club

Caption: Members of the Begonia City Women’s Rowing Club trained hard on Lake Wendouree on Saturday in preparation for their regatta in early February. From left are the coach ralph Murphy and schoolgirl pair, Lois Schmidt and Kim Butler.
Photo from the Ballarat Courier, January1972.

The club also boated three Novice fours at this first regatta, the Number 1 crew being Delwyn Milne, Lynda Gullock, Irene Hatt and Jan Madin. The Number 3 crew entered in the Novice fours were all schoolgirls. This crew was Kim Butler, Lois Schmidt, Joy Rizzoli and Kaye Rizzoli. The Number 2 crew, who were successful in winning the first final for the club, was the crew of Pam Johns, Carolyn Johns, Anne Netherway and Denise Moroney. This crew also entered in the Lightweight Maiden four event. The lightweight Maiden fours race was won by the Essendon Ladies Rowing Club crew. The Essendon crew was unique in the annals of women’s rowing in that included *Ezergailis triplets, possibly the only triplets to race in any crew, women’s or men’s, in Victoria or indeed Australia.

Joy and Kaye Rizzoli also competed in the Novice pairs event, which they won. The crew had the disadvantage of rowing in the heavy clinker pair that was the only tub pair Ballarat City had. Hauling that boat over 500 meters would have been the equivalent of rowing a 2000 metre race! They had the distinction of being the first schoolgirl rowers to win a race in Ballarat and also the winning the club’s second race at their first regatta!

Joy and Kaye Rizzoli with cox Graeme Stephenson

Joy and Kaye Rizzoli with cox Graeme Stephenson in the old clinker pair that was allocated to novice rowers and in which they won their Novice pairs race. (Courtesy G. Stephenson)
(Note: This boat was still at the club and still used by novice rowers including the author when she started her rowing career in 1974.)

In the annual Report, President Pam Johns stated, “Our first regatta, held in February, was a great success and attracted rowers from various parts of Victoria and also from South Australia. The Ballarat Lifting Service Perpetual donated a trophy for the novice fours event and this was won by our Number 2 novice crew. This gave a great boost of enthusiasm to the club and we hope we shall be able to retain it within the club when it will be contested again at our next regatta to be held in November, 1972.”

The headlines in the Ballarat Courier read “ Women’s regatta a great success’ and continued on with club captain Jan Madin stating the first women’s regatta on Lake Wendouree was a “phenomenal” success and exceeded all expectations in terms of attendance and organisation.

All three men’s clubs in an unprecedented show of co-operation, offered support in terms of equipment and supplying regatta officials.

women's regatta a great success newspaper article

It is interesting to note the placings and margins in the article about the regatta. In the Novice fours event Begonia City Ladies fielded three crews with only one other crew entered, making the odds for the club winning the event pretty good! The Number 1 crew won their heat from the Number 3 crew by just a canvas. The Number 2 crew raced in the second heat defeating YWCA by 2 lengths. The final was an all Begonia City affairs and the Number 1 crew defeated the number 3 crew by just 1 length. All three crews were obviously very close in performance.

The lightweight Maiden four was a first and final with the Essendon crew defeating YWCA by 2 lengths.

The Novice pairs also featured the Begonia City of the Rizzoli sisters, winning the first heat from Essendon Ladies RC by 1 length. The second heat was won by the South Australian club Lakeside easily from YWCA. In the final Begonia City again took home the trophy.

The Junior four (not under 23 but the next class up from Maiden) Melbourne University took the honors from Essendon by a canvas. The Champion Schoolgirl pairs was won by Nestles Ladies Rowing Club.

The Maiden four was won by Essendon by 2 lengths. A Men’s Invitation four race was held with the honours going to Wendouree Rowing Club with Ballarat City Rowing Club by a canvas.

regatta program page 1

First page of regatta program with Lightweight Maiden four crews with the Ezergailis triplets names listed. Competing in the same race for Begonia City were Pam Johns, Carolyn Johns, Ann Netherway and Denise Moroney. The crews for Novice four from Begonia City Ladies No.1 and No.2 crews are also listed.

vegemite ad

Author’s note about the Ezergalis triplets.

*The Ezergailis triplets were born March 6th, 1952. Their mother, Aina Ezergailis, who with her husband emigrated from Latvia in 1951. In an interesting coincidence the girls shared the nursery at the Women’s Hospital Melbourne with another set of male triplets also born in March. The triplets were Maija, Leva and Zane When they were about four years old, the girls were featured in this advertisement for vegemite from the Women’s Weekly, 29/2/1956, pg 62.

The Ezergailis girls joined Essendon Ladies Rowing Club as teenagers and competed as a lightweight Maiden four with R.Reid at the first Begonia City Ladies regatta in 1972. They won this event and also competed at the same regatta as a Junior four with Christine Brass joining them in this crew. The whole crew were selected to row at the 1972 Women’s National Championships held on Lake Burley Griffin in the ACT on the 15th April 1972. Their coxswain was Lyn Duff also of Essendon Ladies Rowing Club and the Victorian manageress Mrs.Clare Kinder. Essendon Ladies Rowing Club supported the crew financially to attend the National Championships.

They won the Australian Champion Women’s Junior four, in a time of 4.22.6 seconds. Junior was not an age category as it is today. As mentioned before I am unaware of any other triplets male or female who have rowed in the same crew and become Australian Champions.

program cover

officials page in program

clubs competing page in program

Cover, officials page and clubs competing page from the First annual Begonia City Ladies Rowing Club Regatta.

Only one copy of the original program from the first regatta survives. The cover features crossed oars and was printed on a spirit duplicator in pink and purple ink. The list of officials are all from the Ballarat Rowing Association and all three men’s clubs were represented on the officials list. Also featured is the list of the six original competing women’s clubs affiliated with the Victorian Ladies Rowing Association. The colors of each club are also listed and, included is only interstate club competing, the Lakeside Rowing Club from South Australia. On February 19th, the Begonia City Ladies were represented at the annual Ballarat Regatta in the first women’s race to be held on the Ballarat Regatta program. There was just the one race for women on the forty four event program, the Ladies Maiden Fours. It was named the Carl Schonell Memorial and local sporting goods firm Digger Schonell’s, who donated the trophies. The BCLRC No.1 crew was Delwyn Milne, Lynda Gullock, Irene Hatt with Jan Madin in stroke seat and the No.2 crew, the schoolgirl crew of Kim Bulter, Kaye Rizzoli, Joy Rizzoli and Lois Schmidt competed. The event was again won by the Essendon Ladies Rowing Club with the Ezergailis triplets in the successful crew.

Begonia City girls

competitor's ticket

timetable from program

timetable from program

Ballarat Regatta Program 1972 and picture of Begonia City girls racing at the regatta from the Courier, March 1972. From L-R Kim Butler, Lois Schmidt, Wayne Healey (cox),Kaye Rizzoli and Joy Rizzoli. Kim Butler’s competitor’s Ticket to allow access to regatta area. Timetable showing one women’s event in 44 event program.

Possibly following on from the success of the first regatta and the first appearance of women’s crews at Ballarat Regatta, at the March committee meeting, the club almost doubled the membership, signing up another eighteen or so new members. They included several students who were mainly boarders, from Clarendon Presbyterian Ladies College in Mair Street. Clarendon Presbyterian Ladies College amalgamated with Ballarat College and became Ballarat and Clarendon College in 1974. Therefore, the first girls to row at Clarendon were actually the young ladies who joined Begonia City in 1972. Girls did not row at Ballarat College until 1980.

The original nomination forms reveal where most of the new members came from.

The list of new members who joined the club in March 1972.

  1. Jill Darrigan (typist)
  2. Dianne Nicholls (student)
  3. Margaret Lawrence (student)
  4. Susan Bent (student)
  5. Susan Ratcliffe( account machine operator)
  6. Karen Sullivan (typist)
  7. Margaret Smith (nurse)
  8. Vicki Stephenson (typist)
  9. Jeanette Reynolds(typist)
  10. Jennifer Andean (stenographer)
  11. Mary Young (shop assistant)
  12. Helen Young (student)
  13. Leanne Harris (student CPLC)
  14. Debbie Keith (student CPLC)
  15. Jillian Broadbent (student CPLC)
  16. Kay Smith (student CPLC)
  17. Denise Kingdom (law clerk)
  18. Rita Koopman (nurse)

At regattas later in the year, Begonia City raced at YWCA, Melbourne University and Preston Regattas which were women’s regattas and they also competed at a number of men’s club regattas that also included women’s races on the program. One crew travelled to Warrnambool to compete at the Nestles Regatta on the Hopkins River. They were successful in winning their heat and also the final of the Novice four. The four was stroked by club Captain Jan Madin and included Irene Hatt, Lynda Gullock and Delwyn Milne. Their “trophy” for the win was a china plate! As so often happened in the early days of women’s rowing, useful or decorative items were given as prizes rather than a trophy. Some men’s regattas also followed this trend in the 1970’s and handed out “trophies” like a set of steak knives or Thermos flask. Thankfully by the 1980’s trophies were standardised at most regattas and medallions or silver/plate trophies were awarded.

On the 3rd of August 1972, on the first anniversary of Begonia City Ladies Rowing Club, the Ballarat City Rowing Club met with the committee of Begonia City Ladies to formalise the co-operation between the two clubs and start the process of making the ladies club an Associate division of Ballarat City Rowing Club. Both clubs recognised that it would be advantageous for them to join forces and streamline administration. The notice of motion for the 1972 Ballarat City Rowing Club Annual Meeting was put that “an Associate Division be created and this club be called Ballarat City Ladies Rowing Club.” This motion was carried unopposed at the Annual General Meeting on September 15th 1972. The only change was that the Begonia City would continue to be Begonia City Ladies Rowing Club at least for the immediate future. The rules for the Associate Division were drawn up and added to the Ballarat City Rowing Club constitution after the Annual Meeting in September,1972. To prevent the fairer sex taking over the club, which had, after all, been a bastion of male rowers for a hundred years, there was a stipulation that no female could hold a position on committee was included nor could they vote at any committee meetings!

While the women’s club was able to participate in quarterly meetings of Ballarat City Rowing Club, they would continue to hold their own meetings and make the minutes of these meetings available to the BCRC committee. The women also had to pay a $9.00 subscription fee of which $6.00 would go to Ballarat City Rowing Club and $3.00 to an equipment fund for the purchase of equipment for Associate members.

Begonia City Ladies held their first Annual General Meeting on Wednesday, 6th of September 1972 and presented the Annual Report. The agenda for the meeting survives and President Pam John’s handwritten comments reveal the outstanding achievements this small, determined group of women made. In 12 short months, they had a formed a club and signed up over 40 members. They undertook fundraising, recruiting and organising everything that was needed to run the club. They had organised and held their own regatta where they recorded the club’s very first win. In short, they overcame 100 years of the male dominated sport of rowing tradition and history in Ballarat in a little over a year and put it at the forefront of women’s rowing in Victoria. The guest speaker at the first Annual Meeting was Kath (Suhr) Bennett who gave a talk on women’s rowing. It again showed the great support and guidance that the Victorian Ladies Rowing Association and Kath, in particular had been in assisting the club to get “off the ground and on the water!”

successful day newspaper article

Article from the Ballarat Courier, November 1972

1972 Regattas and Racing

1. Yarrawonga Regatta, Yarrawonga, 3rd January, 1972.

Ladies Open fours:-

No.1.crew of Delwyn Milne (b), Lynda Gullock (2), Irene Hatt (3), Jan Madin (str)- third.

No.2 crew-names not recorded.

2. Begonia City Ladies Rowing Club, First Annual Regatta, Lake Wendouree, 6 th February.

Schoolgirl pair Championship:- Lois Schmidt (str), Kim Butler (bow)-second.

Novice pairs: - Kay Rizzoli, Joy Rizzoli, cox Graeme Stephenson- first

Novice fours: - No.1. Delwyn Milne (b), Lynda Gullock (2), Irene Hatt (3), Jan Madin (str).

- No.2 Pam Johns (b),Carolyn Johns (3), Anne Netherway (3), Denise Moroney (str) - first

- No. 3. Kim Butler (b), Joy Rizzoli(2), Kay Rizzoli(3), Lois Schmidt (str).

Lightweight Maiden four: - Pam Johns (b), Carolyn Johns (2), Anne Netherway (3), Denise Moroney (str) - third.

3. Ballarat Regatta, 19th February.

Ladies Maiden fours:-

No.1.Delwyn Milne (b), Lynda Gullock (2), Irene Hatt (3), Jan Madin (str) - third in heat

No.2. Kim Butler(b), Kay Rizzoli(2), Joy Rizzoli(3) and Lois Schmidt (str) - second in heat.

4. YWCA Regatta-no results recorded

5. Melbourne University Ladies RC Regatta-no results recorded

6. Preston Men’s Regatta-no results recorded

7. Nestles Regatta, Warrnambool.

Ladies Novice four:- Delwyn Milne (b), Lynda Gullock(2), Irene Hatt (3), Jan Madin (str) - first.

8. Begonia City Ladies Rowing Club, Second Annual Regatta. 26th November.

Ladies Novice four:-No.1:Karen Sullivan, Susan Bent, Margaret Young and Susan Ratcliffe - first in heat-first in final.

-No.2: Roslyn McKay, Mary Young, Judy Trevena, Karen Jones-second in heat, third in final.

Ladies Maiden four:- Denise Moroney, Delwyn Milne, Lois Gullock, Joy Rizzoli-first in heat

Ladies Novice pair:-Jennifer Andean, Jeanette Reynolds-first in heat, second in final

9. Open Day, Ballarat City Rowing Club, November 1972-women’s four:- Jeanette Reynolds, Karen Sullivan, Margaret Young, Lynda Gullock, Mary Young (cox) (see Courier article following.)

The President, Pam Johns and Captain, Jan Madin, wrote reports on the club’s first season of rowing. These report are reproduced in full along with the agenda and the original nomination and voting sheet. As Pam’s hand written prompts say they had not only learned to row but they had learned “ how to run a club.”

1972 agm agenda

Above: Agenda for AGM 6th September, 1972. Handwritten notes by Pam Johns, President.

1972 committee nominations

Nominations for the positions on Committee for 1972-73 season. The name underlined and ticked was elected for the season.

President- Pam Johns

Vice-president- Joy Rizzoli

Secretary- Denise Moroney

Treasurer- Joy Rizzoli

Captain- Jan Madin

Vice-captain- Delwyn Milne

The first Annual Report of the Begonia City Ladies Rowing Club presented at the first Annual General Meeting on the 6th September, 1972. This was the first and only Annual Meeting held separately by Begonia City Ladies as a stand-alone club, as just before this meeting, they had decided to become an Associate division of Ballarat City Rowing Club and therefore the second Annual Meeting and report in 1973 would be held and presented jointly with BCRC.

president's report page 1

president's report page 2

president's report page 3

president's report page 4

club captain's report page 1

club captain's report page 2

new women's rowing club to be formed newspaper article

Article from the Ballarat Courier, Saturday 23rd of September 1972.

Pictured from the left are Jan Madin, Irene Hatt and Pam Johns of Begonia City Ladies Rowing Club and Ted Edwards(Life Member), Rob McGuire(secretary) and Ralph Murphy(President) of Ballarat City Rowing Club discussing the creation of the women’s Associate division of the Ballarat City Rowing Club.

Associate Division Rules

Association Division Rules

In the Victorian Ladies Rowing Association Annual Report of 1972, the affiliation of Begonia City Ladies Rowing Club was recorded as the only new club that season and were at the forefront of an unprecedented increase in the creation of women’s clubs. Begonia City Ladies RC joined Melbourne University Ladies RC as the second of the newer clubs to join the ranks of women’s rowing joining the older established clubs of Essendon, Nestles and YWCA. The VLRA were also working towards affiliating Robinvale, Horsham, Latrobe University and Wentworth. by 1973, the following women's clubs also affiliated; Preston, Yarrawonga, Morwell, Horsham, Wentworth, Monash University and La Trobe Universities.

VLRA Annual Report 1971-72

Report from the VLRA Annual Report 1971-72 recording the affiliation of Begonia City Ladies Rowing Club.

Another highly significant event that assisted both Ballarat City RC and Begonia City Ladies RC enormously, was in October 1972 when the State government loan that had been taken out by the Ballarat City in order to rebuild the shed in time for the 1956 Olympic Games, was finally wiped. There was still an outstanding balance of $11,000.00, but through the efforts of former President, Frank Findlay, the club was excused from any more repayments. The club had been paying it back for nearly 20 years and it consumed most of their income. By not having this debt hanging over their heads suddenly they were able to purchase more equipment and actually make improvements around the club.

So with increased membership and enthusiasm the two clubs looked more confidently towards the coming season. In December 1972 the first quarterly meeting of the Ballarat City was held with 20 members and 5 Associate members present.

Second Annual Regatta, November 26th, 1972

The club’s Second Annual Regatta was held on Sunday 26th of November, 1972. There were seven women’s clubs competing and the regatta was run by the officials of the Ballarat Rowing Association. The second regatta was held in cold, wet, blustery conditions on Lake Wendouree. The weather was miserable as only the weather in November in Ballarat can be and the officials and competitors really did well enduring the very trying conditions. This was a much bigger program than the first regatta with 18 events and over 100 competing oarswomen.

The clubs competing were Lakeside Rowing Club and Wilderness Rowing Club from South Australia, Nestles, Dimboola, Preston, Essendon, YWCA and Melbourne University. The two South Australian clubs travelled to Ballarat with 22 girls competing. They were billeted out by members of the Begonia City and Ballarat City clubs. Many of the girl’s parents bought them over for the regatta. It was amazing to have interstate competitors again at this second regatta.

The 18 races on the program included heats and finals. Races for Novices were all over 500 metres and Maiden, Junior and Open were over 1000 metres. The regatta started at 12pm and concluded at 4.30 with a presentation of trophies after the last event. In the 1970’s to 1990’s clubs all boated from where the clubhouses were so that they were close to facilities. They parked their trailers there and rigged boats and launched from the jetties of the three clubs. Each competing club was allocated a jetty. Many clubs did not have sufficient boats or did not have a trailer to bring boats to a regatta so there was a lot of borrowing of boats and many crews had to “double up” using the one boat in several races. To cater for this the timetable was structured so that crews, particularly Novice fours, had the heats separated by other races to give them time to go back and give their boat to another crew!

Begonia City Ladies fielded two Novice fours at this regatta. Many of the members racing had only been rowing for five or six months. The No.1 crew was Karen Sullivan, Susan Bent, Margaret Young and Susan Ratcliffe. They won their heat from YWCA and Essendon in a time of 2 minutes and 54 seconds for 500 metres. Again, given that the boat and oars they were using were wooden and extremely heavy, this was an outstanding effort. The No.1 crew went on to win the final from Nestles in second place and YWCA in third. Their win meant that they retained the perpetual trophy donated by the Ballarat Lifting Service (A. and P. Tippet) for the second time, with a Begonia City crew having also won the Novice fours at their first regatta in February.

In Heat 3 of the Novice fours the No.2 crew placed second behind YWCA who had the winning time of 3 minutes 04 seconds. The crew comprised Roslyn McKay, Mary Young, Judy Trevena and Karen Jones. The club also had an entry in the Maiden fours with the crew of Denise Moroney, Delwyn Milne, Lynda Gullock and Joy Rizzoli. They won the second heat by six lengths from Lakeside, the club from South Australia. In the final they could only manage third behind winners Dimboola Ladies Rowing Club and YWCA in second place. The Novice pair of Jennifer Andean and Jeanette Reynolds won their heat easily from Preston Ladies Rowing Club and placed second in the final 1 ½ lengths behind YWCA. Also competing at this regatta for YWCA were Kath Suhr and Carolyn Judd. They raced in an Open four. Not only were they very competently supporting and promoting women’s rowing around the state, working on the committee of the VLRA and their club YWCA but they were also putting in time to train and race and support regattas.

success for women in regatta newspaper article

Article from the Ballarat Courier 27th November,1972.

A new Social Committee was also formed jointly with representatives of Begonia City Ladies Rowing Club and Ballarat City Rowing Club and their first fund raising effort was organising and catering for a Smorgasbord Dinner Dance at the boatshed. It was held organised by to celebrate the wiping of the loan.

The Social Committee also took on the task of catering at regattas-the Victorian Championships and the Ballarat Regatta in March. Catering at regattas in Ballarat was a major fund raiser for the club for many years and were a lot of work for the members, making sandwiches and rolls and selling drinks both upstairs in the hall and at a tent at the finish. The catering this year was a financial success and brought in much needed funds to the club.

1972 regatta program cover

1972 regatta program officials page

1972 regatta program timetable page

1972 regatta program course instructions page

The original Regatta program for the Second Annual Begonia City Ladies Regatta, Sunday 26th November 1972. Printed on foolscap. Includes regatta officials, competing clubs, timetable. and course rules.

1972 regatta program page 1

1972 regatta program page 2

1972 regatta program page 3

1972 regatta program page 4

Pages 1,2,3 and 4 of the Regatta secretary Helen Sproule’s program with notations for placings, scratchings, times and margins. Begonia City won Event 16 the Novice fours by ½ a length!

Below is an article from the Ballarat Courier, Social pages, 8th December, 1972. Ballarat City Rowing Club and Begonia City Ladies Rowing Club combined to form a Social Club and run a Smorgasbord Dinner dance to celebrate the wiping of the State Government loan. Newly elected President for 1972-73 season, Ralph Murphy is pictured front right. Alf and Kit Quick, are at front left.

Alf Quick was a long serving committee man filling the roles of President, secretary and treasurer over 30 years from 1950 to 1980. Kit, his wife, was also a great volunteer and worked tirelessly for the club usually in the kitchen, catering on regatta days.

dinner dance photo in newspaper article
dinner dance newspaper article

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