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australian rowers profiles and history

Verna Westwood

University of Western Australia (WA) the Melbourne University Boat Club (VIC)

Verna started rowing at the University of Western Australia in 1973 aged 17. After enjoying rapid success in club, intervarsity and national competition she was selected in the 1978 Australian Women's 8 to compete at the World Championships at Lake Karapiro, New Zealand where her crew finished in 8th place. 

Following this Verna was invited to Melbourne to join a group of Victorian women at MUBC (MULRC as it was then) to train with a view to selection for the next World Championships in Bled, Yugoslavia and ultimately the Olympic Games in Moscow in 1980. At Bled in 1979 her crew achieved a personal best time in their semi-final placing 2nd and were on a realistic target for a bronze in the final. Ultimately, finishing in 5th place the crew obtained some satisfaction from being the fastest women's coxed 4 crew in the western world. This was at a time when the Eastern bloc dominated world rowing and rumours of drug doping were rife. To further underline their performance the East German women's coach remarked to the crews coach that they were very fast for their weight. The crew now set their sights on Moscow with some hope that this experience and further training would make up the difference. Although they set a new course record on the Bosbaan in the Amsterdam lead-up regatta and farewelled most other western nations who were boycotting the Games, they once again finish in 5th, behind the Eastern Bloc. 

Verna retired from rowing, perhaps prematurely, after Moscow for family reasons and returned to Western Australia. Verna continued her involvement in rowing in her teaching career, as a director of Rowing at Perth College as well as also competing at FISA and Australian Masters regattas in later years . 

"Perhaps the greatest satisfaction for me derives from not only having rowed fiercely with these fellow women but remaining lifelong friends still 40 years after. We were the first Australian women's Olympic representatives and our training regime and performances set a template and standard for those that followed. It is a legacy of which we are proud." - Verna Westwood

1977 - Interstate Women's Four Championship (WA) emergency 

1978 - Interstate Women's Four Championship (WA) Stroke - Second 

1978 - World Championships - Women's Eight six seat -Eighth 

1979 -Interstate Women's Four Championship stroke - First 1979 - World Championships - Women's Coxed Four two seat - Fifth

1980 -Interstate Women's Four Championship two seat - First

1980 - Olympic Games - Women's Coxed Four two seat - Fifth

1991- Interstate Women's Youth Four Championship coach - Fifth

1980 Olympic Rowing Team - Verna seated third from the right

1980 Olympic Games - naming of their boat the "Dawn Fraser" and of course the deed being done by Dawn. Verna is second from the right


2018 Victorian Rowing Hall of Fame

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