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australian rowers profiles and history

Fergus Hamilton

Corowa Rowing Club (NSW), Yale University Boat Club (USA), Mercantile Rowing Club (VIC)

Fergus is an emerging champion of the sport who has taken, and used to great advantage, the opportunities provided to him. He is a great role model and thoroughly enjoys his rowing.

Fergus comes from a rowing family with his father being a British rowing Olympian at Atlanta. His family are also from the land, farming in Gippsland and then in southern New South Wales. The combination of these factors conspired to offer Fergus an interesting introduction to the sport. When his father was offered a scull, he welcomed the opportunity to show a young Fergus sculling on the farm dam, offering a distance of about two strokes. All went well until a brown snake went for a swim at the same time. Fergus learnt to manoeuvre the boat to keep out the path of the snake, and his father jumped high in the air despite a standing start in mud!

Despite this inauspicious start, it has been a great and still promising rowing career.

Fergus was initially schooled at Gippsland Grammar where he commenced his rowing in years 7 and 8. When the family moved north, Fergus moved to boarding school at Melbourne Grammar. He still had time to fit in some rowing with Corowa Rowing Club which led to his first championship wins in the under 17 single and double sculls. 

At Melbourne Grammar the rise was brisk - rowing in the first crew in both 2016 and 2017, winning in 2016. The 2016 school crew also raced at Henley Royal Regatta reaching the semi-finals in the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup, bowing out to St Paul’s of the UK. In 2017, the school also competed at the National Championships finishing third in the hotly contested schoolboy eights championship.

Given Fergus’s talent, he and his coach Tom Abramowski set their sights on the junior trials for the Australian under 19 team. This involved jumping back into the single and an intensive 2-3 weeks training on the Hume Dam. Both coach and sculler worked well together and Fergus successfully converted back to sculling. Fergus proved his worth to the selectors and was selected in a double scull for the World Under 19 Championships with National Under 19 Champion Cormac Kennedy-Leverett. As Cormac was resident in Queensland and Fergus in Melbourne, other than a couple of camps, most of the getting together occurred overseas. Every row overseas brought more improvement and learnings. So much so, they finished with the gold medal. “Pretty cool”.

After winning gold in 2017 at the World Under 19 Championships

He set his sights on university in America. This also requires good school grades, l so much focus on studying was required. Discussion with recruiters commenced in 2016 and he was flown over to the US. It resulted in an offer from Yale which was accepted. The chance to row and study at one of the top Ivy League universities of the world was an incredible opportunity. 

These were the COVID years and his studies were broken up into two stages, returning home in between. Consequently, his liberal arts degree, with a major in anthropology, was not completed until May 2023. 

There was plenty of great rowing undertaken in those years in many races including the Head of The Charles, the Eastern Sprints, the IRA National Championships and of course the Yale v Harvard race.

In the Head of the Charles, he won finished with two first places, and a second and third placing over four years. In the IRA championship, a second placing in the second varsity crew and a second and fourth in the Varsity crew. Finally in the Yale/Harvard grudge match, two wins in the Varsity crew.

The highlights of his time at Yale Rowing included the honour of being Captain of the Club in 2023 in the last year of legendary coach Steve Gladstone.  The best times, apart from the wins, were the times spent prior to the Yale Harvard Race when the crew moved into the boathouse for 3 weeks. It was time of great comradeship, fun and development.

Fergus also highlighted that being able to study at such a renowned university with such superb facilities, and gaining the great opportunities a Yale education holds, are golden.

Fergus catching up with Patron and Life Member Sean Colgan whilst training in Florida for Yale University

Even before the end of his studies, Fergus unsuccessfully attempted to get into the Australian Olympic squad. This was a good move. When Sam Hardy decided to retire following selections, the squad was short a bow sider and he got the call up. Before he knew it, he was flying from the States to Italy. 

The reserves pair of Fergus and fellow Melbourne rower Simon Keenan were given the opportunity to race at World Cup 3 at Lucerne on a short preparation - they impressed all. To race at the World Championships, they then had to trial against other members in the team in the pair and win. They did and raced at the championships. Whilst not meeting their own high aim of making the final, Fergus and Simon still qualified the boat for the Olympic Games. 

Fergus and Simon Keenan at World Cup 3 in 2023

When reflecting on the great influencers on his rowing, Fergus is full of praise from Tom Abramowski, his main school coach. “I learnt so much from Tom regarding rowing. And, so much good advice on rowing and life in the training leading to the 2017 junior trials when he was training in Albury near the family farm.”

His advice to aspiring rowers, is “to do the work and enjoy doing it. Both go hand in hand as you will have fun if the work is done.”

His aspirations are firmly set in sweep oared rowing and in the eight. He summed it up along these lines: it is where he has the most experience and where the challenges are the highest and the rewards the greatest. Also, when it goes well, there is nothing to compare it. 

Finally, his aspirations go beyond any opportunities he might get for Paris to a longer international career. And he also wants to race more at the National Championships as he has only raced at that regatta twice. And of course, a King’s Cup win. He missed out in 2021 due to a rib injury.

We are seeing the start of a significant rowing career.

Some of Fergus’ Main Rowing Events

2015 – Victorian Championships, Under 17 Scull – First
2015 – Victorian Championships, Under 17 Double Scull – First
2016 – APS Head of the River (Melb Gram) First VIII, five seat – First
2016 – Henley Royal Regatta, Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup – Semi-finalist
2017 – APS Head of the River (Melb Gram) First VIII, seven seat – Second
2017 – National Championships, Schoolboy Eight, seven seat - Third
2017 - World Under 19 Championships, Double Scull, stroke – Gold
2018 – Head of the Charles Yale Varsity Eight - First
2019 – Head of the Charles Yale Varsity Eight – First
2019 – IRA National Championships, second Varsity crew - Third
2021 – Olympic Games – non-travelling reserve
2022 – World Under 23 Championships, Men’s Eight, stroke – Bronze
2022 – Head of the Charles Yale Varsity Eight – Second
2022 – IRA National Championships, Varsity crew – Second
2022 – Harvard Yale Regatta – First (in record time) 
2023 – Head of the Charles Yale Varsity Eight – Second
2023 – IRA National Championships, Varsity crew - Fourth
2023 – Harvard Yale Regatta, stroke – First
2023 – Yale University Rowing Club Captain
2023 – World Championships, Men’s Pair, stroke – Eighth

Andrew Guerin
November 2023


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