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history of australian rowing at olympic games

Olympic and Paralympic Games—Tokyo 2020

Known as the COVID Games, the impact of the 2020-21 COVID-19 pandemic was everywhere on the Games. Firstly the unprecedented postponement of the Games for a year, then the delta variant of the virus nearly causing the cancellation of the Games in 2021, no spectators, and the ever present threat of catching the virus or unwittingly being a close contact of a positive case and therefore being forced into quarantine. 

Congratulations to all competitors who withstood an additional year of preparation and the constant uncertainties to compete and so well.

Olympic Rankings

The antipodeans led the world despite the lack of racing in Europe. The usual power houses of world rowing, Germany and Great Britain, were well down the list and the United States not ranked at all. 

1New Zealand3205
3The Netherlands1225
= 6China1023
= 6Italy1023
= 8Canada1012
= 8Croatia1012
= 8Ireland1012
= 12Germany0202
= 12Russian Olympic Committee0202
14 Great Britain0112
= 15Norway0101
= 15Poland0101
= 17Austria0011
= 17Denmark0011

Paralympic rankings

1Great Britain2








The 2019 World Championships were the primary qualification event for the Olympic Games with the secondary qualification event being the Lucerne Qualification Regatta in late May 2020. 

Australia again placed a great deal of effort and resources in qualifying crews in 2019. Unfortunately their results  did not qualify any lightweights or women's quad and men's double. Despite an excellent effort to qualify these four crews, only the women's quad was successful.

The crews sent in 2020 to qualify for the Games at the final qualification regatta were:

Women’s Quad Scull
Caitlin Cronin, Harriet Hudson, Rowena Meredith and Ria Thompson  

Women's Lightweight Double Scull
Georgia Nesbitt and Sarah Pound

Men's Double Scull
David Watts and Campbell Wattsp

Men's Lightweight Double Scull
Sean Murphy and Hamish Parry

Results Summaries - Olympics

23rd July

24th July

25th July

26th July - no racing due to weather issues

27th July - no racing due to weather issues

28th July

29th July

30th July

Results Summaries - Paralympics

27 August

28 August

29 August

Results by event

Men's Scull

This event brought a great surprise to the casual watchers of rowing when the Greek sculler Stefanos Ntouskos burst through the field in the semi-finals and then repeated it in the final to take gold. Missing from the final was the German sculler Oliver Zeidler who was a strong pre Games medal choice.

Men's Double Scull

This was fiercely contested event with very little between the first and last. In the end the French crew of Hugo Boucheron and Matthieu Androdias prevailed over the Dutch in a very tight finish. In the final, the Chinese crew led narrowly through the 1000m before the Dutch crew made their move in the third 500m and tried to hold on. The French moved brilliantly with 500m to go and gained the lead. All looked like France with the Dutch piling on the pressure. The French caught a mild crab with 10 strokes to go opening the door again to the Dutch. The French regained their composure quickly and just held on to win by 0.2 second.

Men's Quad Scull

The was won by the Dutch in a world best time but they did not have it all their own way. Great Britain, who had to qualify through the repechage, led for the first 1300m before the Dutch made their move. The Italian crew was likely to do well but suffered a massive crab which stopped their boat and they never recovered. The Australian led off the start at 47 spm and stayed in touch the whole way rating very high. They had a couple of bad strokes but recovered without too much damage. They were rowing through the British crew at the final stages of the race end and narrowly missed silver. It was a superb race from this crew. They raced  above expectations in a fast and furious race.

Men's Pair 

This race had a hot favourite for gold, the Croatian Sinkovic brothers, Martin and Valent. They did not disappoint and led from start to finish. The race was a question of who would be minor medallists? The Romanians moved well in the third 500m to clear out to be a clear second place getter and then put pressure on the Croatians. The bronze medal was narrowly won by Denmark from Canada. The Australian crew had a disappointing regatta finishing fourth in the B final - they had far higher hopes.

Men's Four

This was a great win to the Australians in their number one ranked men's boat. They led from start to finish and  in Olympic best time. The Romanians almost rated off the scale at the start being over 50spm.That did not stop them from taking silver in this fast race pushing the Australians to the end. There was very nearly a objection when the British crew forgot their steering in the last 100m of the race and nearly hitting the Italians.

Men's Eight

The New Zealand crew raced superbly to take gold from the pre race favourites Germany and The Netherlands. The Dutch finished in fourth place and so out of the medals. The disappointment on the faces of the the Dutch and German crews was evident. The new Zealanders had to qualify this boat in Lucerne, which in hindsight was an excellent preparation. The eights, perhaps more than any other class, need international racing preparation. Without that race, they may had to do their preparation at home, without race experience - a situation which the Australians were forced to endure due to COVID restrictions. It was an exciting final, full of surprises. Sadly the Australian crew could not maintain the pace of the medallists in the second half of the race.

Men's Lightweight Double Scull

This was forecast to be Team Ireland and Team German hit out and we were not disappointed. The Irish prevailed in a memorable race. The Germans led early with Italy and Ireland in close pursuit. By the 1000m mark, the Germans and Irish started a two horse race. By the 1500m the Irish had made their move and led narrowly. The Irish then pushed away and held it together rating very high to the end to win.

Women's Scull

The very experienced Emma Twigg raced a model regatta and final to take gold. She was strong, obviously fast, technically excellent and controlled. Her early move out in the final was then consolidated and so she was able to withstand the changes of the final sprint home. A superb and well deserved gold after finishing fourth in both Rio and London: a crowd favourite victor.

Women's Double Scull

The favourite was the Romanian crew of Ancuta Bodnar and Simona Radis and they met expectations leading from start to finish. The Kiwis and the Dutch fought out silver and bronze. 

The Australian crew of Tara Rigney and Amanda Bateman were first time Olympians and raced well to comfortably win the B final.

Women's Quad Scull

Many regarded the winning Chinese crew as the crew of the regatta. They dominated this event and were simply supreme. They were technically excellent and rowed superbly. They finished in a world best time.

The young Australian crew qualified through the qualification regatta at Lucerne. They did well to reach the final by winning the repechage. They kept in touch through the first 1000m although in fifth place. They moved up to challenge for bronze in the third 500m although still in fifth place. In the last stages of the race they maintained the pressure on the Italians and Germans. They passed the Italians and then the Germans caught a massive crab stopping their boat, and in their recovery, caught another crab. They went from third to fifth placing allowing the Australian through to a bronze medal. The benefits of keeping on the pressure and being in a position to move paid off. 

Women's Pair

The Kiwi pair of Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler prevailed in a superb A final after the Canadians led for the first half of the race. The Kiwis took the lead in the third 500m and did not relinquish it. In the final stages, the Russians took the silver from the Canadians. 

The big story was the doubling up of the Australian pair of Annabelle McIntyre and Jessica Morrison in the four. On the original program, the only time that they would double up on the same day would be in the heats. Due to weather conditions, the four A finals and the pair semi-final were reschedule two hours apart. This was an impossible situation. They won the four and then had to back up in the semi-final two hours later after  medal presentations, drug testing, etc. The changed program killed their realistic opportunity for two medals. After failing to get through in the sprint to the line in the semi-final in the pair, they easily won the B final.

Women's Four

The Australians were the number one Australian women's crew and current World Champions. They won their heat and were favourites for the final. They did not disappoint despite the best efforts of the Dutch to spoil the party. The Australians had an excellent second 500m to gain a small lead over the field which they maintained for the rest of the race. The Dutch sprinted well to push the Aussies to only a small win of 0.45 seconds in Olympic best time.

Women's Eight

A dominating win by the Canadians. They turned the table on the heat result where they were beaten by the Kiwis, and also the repechage where they were beaten by the Romanians, who were not sighted in the final.

Women's Lightweight Double Scull

This was one of the most interesting and tight final of the regatta. As with the women's double scull races, it showed the benefit of maintaining the pressure on the winning crews. The race unfolded as expected with all crews within a length at the half way mark. The Dutch moved out well in the third 500m. The race opened up over the last 250m with four crews coming up on the Dutch who maintained the lead. With four strokes to go, the Dutch caught a crab and went from first to third. The Italians who had worked through the field to second place took the gold by 0.14 sec to the French crew. The race for the bronze resulted in the Dutch taking bronze by 0.01 second from the British crew. It took some time for the Italians to believe that they won the race and for the photo to determine the bronze.

Men's PR1 Scull

The stand out sculler was Roman Polianskyi of the Ukraine who won his heat and the final in outstanding fashion. Erik Horrie improved during the regatta and finished a strong second in the final. His rowing displayed why he has been World Champion with the boat travelling without disruption through the stroke. The Brazilian who defeated him in the heat finished behind him in the final being unable to match the relentless and excellent racing of Erik.

Erik now has three Paralympic silver medals, one for each of his sons.

Women's PR1 Scull

The Norwegian sculler Birgit Lovise Roekkum Skarstein was a class above the others in her race and won well.

Mixed PR2 Double Scull

The Australian crew raced well but were narrowly beaten out of a finals place despite finishing in the third best time of the repechages. It was no surprise that the won the B final easily.

Mixed PR3 Coxed Four

COVID restrictions severely hampered the preparation for this crew. They got together in Tokyo for the first time since May and improved dramatically with every race. Sadly they finished fourth just out of the medals. Sadly they needed a little more time together despite racing surprisingly well together.

Australian Team - Olympics

Photos courtesy of Rowing Australia

Men's Quad Scull - Bronze

Bow: Jack Cleary (WA)
2: Caleb Antill (ACT)
3: Cameron Girdlestone (NSW)
Str: Luke Letcher (ACT)

From the left, Jack Cleary, Caleb Antill, Cameron Girdlestone and Luke Letcher

Men's Pair - Tenth

Bow: Sam Hardy (NSW)
Str: Joshua Hicks (WA)

Men's pair in final B

Men's Four - Gold

Bow: Alexander Purnell (NSW)
2: Spencer Turrin (NSW)
3: Jack Hargreaves (NSW)
Str: Alexander Hill (SA)

From the left, Alex Purnell, Spencer Turrin, Jack Hargreaves and Alex Hill

Men's Eight - Sixth

Bow: Nicholas Lavery (VIC)
2: Joseph (Jack) O'Brien (NSW)
3: Joshua Booth (VIC)
4: Simon Keenan (VIC)
5: Nicholas Purnell (NSW)
6: Timothy Masters (VIC)
7: Angus Dawson (SA)
Str: Angus Widdicombe (VIC)
Cox: Stuart Sim (VIC)

Men's eight giving it everything

Women's Double Scull - Seventh

Bow: Amanda Bateman (VIC)
Str: Tara Rigney (NSW)

Amanda Bateman and Tara Rigney racing well

Women's Quad Scull - Bronze

Bow: Ria Thompson (VIC and QLD)
2: Rowena Meredith (NSW)
3: Harriet Hudson (QLD)
Str: Caitlin Cronin (QLD)

From the left, Ria Thompson, Rowena Meredith, Harriet Hudson and Caitlin Cronin

Women's Pair - Seventh

Bow: Jess Morrison (VIC)
Str: Annabelle McIntyre (WA)

Jess Morrison and Annabelle McIntyre taking our final B

Women's Four - Gold

Bow: Lucy Stephan (VIC)
2: Rosemary Popa (VIC)
3: Jessica Morrison (VIC)
Str: Annabelle McIntyre (WA)

Lucy Stephan, Rosie Popa, Jessica Morrison and Annabelle McIntyre

Women's Eight - Fifth

Bow: Genevieve Horton (NSW)
2: Olympia Aldersey (SA)
3: Bronwyn Cox (WA)
4: Giorgia Patten (WA)
5: Sarah Hawe (VIC)
6: Georgina Rowe (NSW)
7: Katrina Werry (VIC)
Str: Molly Goodman (SA)
Cox: James Rook (VIC) 

Women's eight racing

Travelling Reserves
Ciona Wilson (TAS)
Jacinta Edmunds (QLD)
Campbell Watts (NSW)
Rohan Lavery (VIC)

Non-travelling Reserves (not part of the team)
Kate Rowan (QLD)
Fergus Hamilton (VIC)

Team Leader: Wayne Diplock (NTC-QLD)
Team Coaches:
Ian Wright – Men’s Head Coach (Men’s Four and Pair)
Rhett Ayliffe – Men’s Eight
Mark Prater – Men’s Quadruple Scull
John Keogh – Women’s Head Coach (Women’s Four and Pair)
Tom Westgarth – Women’s Eight
Ellen Randell – Women’s Double Scull
Andrew Randell – Women’s Quadruple Scull
Boatman: Urs Graf (SUI) 

Australian Team - Paralympics

PR1 Men's Scull - Silver

Eric Horrie (NSW)

PR2 Mixed Double Scull -Seventh

Bow: Simon Albury (SA)
Str: Katherine Ross (VIC)

PR3 Mixed Coxed Four - Fourth

Bow: Nikki Ayers (ACT)
2: Alexandra Viney   (VIC)
3: James Talbot (NSW)
Str: Thomas Birtwhistle (NSW)
Cox: Renae Domaschenz (ACT)

Gordon Marcks – Head Coach
Jason Baker – PR1 M1x Coach
Lincoln Handley – PR2 Mix2x Coach
Lizzi Chapman – PR3 Mix Coxed 4 Coach
Sarah Hammond – Physiotherapist

Photo Galleries Photo galleries of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

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