After gaining selection in April, the Australian Junior Mens Coxless IV began a long and gruelling, yet rewarding journey, towards the World Junior Rowing Championships in Brandenburg, Germany. The crew of Andrew Heffer, Andrew Conolly, Mitchel Estens and Cam Girdlestone trained from the Sydney University boatshed at Linley point. In late July the crew attended an Australian Rowing Camp at the AIS, in Canberra, where they we able to train and race against all other national crews. This gave the crew a taste for what was now, just a few weeks away.
On the 22nd of July the crew departed for Trebon, in the Czech Republic, for a 7 day camp. This amazing city was situated next to a lake which, with a buoyed 2000m course, provided the crew every opportunity to get use to the new time zone, climate and boat. After naming the boat the ?MC Hammer? the boys became very comfortable in it and showed some good speed in training.
With the accommodation just 500m from the lake and only 50m from our dining room, the boys had plenty of time off to relax and enjoy the experience of being in a foreign country. Midway during the week, the crew spent the afternoon at Cesky Krumlov. An amazing old city that had plenty of things to occupy the boy?s attention. The exchange rate was certainly in favour of those, in particular Andrew Conolly, who took to a little shopping.
On the bus to Brandenburg, it hit home that we were just one day away from our final assault on the World Championships. The city of Brandenburg, had been decked out to welcome the 700 athletes from over 55 competing nations. The course was well set out and there was no shortage of volunteers who were working hard to make us feel welcome. On the water we went through final preparations, while taking the opportunity to get our first look at our opposition.
The heat was a good introduction to racing at this level. After leading early the crew fought hard to hold off strong attacks through the middle 1000m, only to be edged into fourth and narrowly missing a semi final birth. The following day saw us race in the repercharge. The boys managed to again get a good start and set the early pace. This time they managed to fight off numerous challenges to emerge victorious. This was very good for the crew?s confidence and it was now time to prepare for the all important semi finals.
On the second last day of the regatta, there was a little tension in the air as the top 12 crews were all looking for one of the 6 positions in the A-Final. The Germans and the Romanians jumped to an early lead, with our boys sitting in third place with the Italians sitting just behind. With 500m to go the leading too crews looked set to qualify and it was down to Australia and Italy for the last spot. It was a great race that saw the Italians finish just in front claiming third position and an A-final birth.
On Saturday we were greeted by a smiling Andrew Conolly on his 18th birthday. The boys were in good spirits and wanted to finish the campaign with a good row in the morning?s B-Final program. As they had all week the boys started well and were setting the up with the leaders. The Canadians and the French were right there also with the Czech Republic and Hungary just behind. At the 1000m it was still our boys took the lead with the other crews very bunched, just half a length behind. This was a race that would go to the fastest finisher. As the crews crossed the line it was Hungary, who had lifted their rating to 47, who won with the Aussie?s in second place.
To finish 8th at a world championship was a great result, and one for the boys to be very proud of. I strongly feel that all of these boys have learnt from the experience of international competition and I am confident they will all pull on the green and gold colours again.
I would like to thank Sydney University Boat Club for their continued support of the crew. To train in such an elite rowing environment was a new experience for the young crew and one that was a major factor to their high level of achievement. I would also like to thank the parents and supporters for helping us cover the financial costs involved in travelling overseas. I can also say that the Aussie supporters in Brandenburg were second to none.
Damien Mitchelmore (Coach)