Opening with the men?s pair, the favoured crew of Drew Ginn and Duncan Free did not disappoint. They took an early but narrow lead but were hotly pursued by the new Canadian combination. Finally they broke free into a clear lead in the third five hundred after a sustained push and established the break that gave them the gold medal. The Canadians fought back but the experience of the Aussie pair was enough to retain a solid margin to the line. Next up the Aussie men?s double scull of David Crawshay and Scott Brennan maintained their brilliant form from the heat and the semi ? they went to a clear water lead at the 1000m and never looked in danger of defeat. Technically they looked one of the best crews of the field and the regatta to date. Not since Antonie and Hawkins in Barcelona ?92 have we seen such perfect sculling from an Australian double.
The last finalist of the day was the men?s coxless four. When the crew were selected in the second priority boat after missing the eight many in Australian rowing were concerned about the ability of this team to qualify ( as was required when Australia finished 12th in this event in 2007) for the Olympics.
The four started their campaign at the Lucerne World Cup and after winning their heat, semi and final in convincing fashion were then almost certain of doing well enough at the subsequent Qualifying Regatta in Poznan to make it to the Olympics. Unfortunately on the morning of the qualifying final in June one of the crew was too ill to race. Fortunately reserve Terrence Alfred was on hand to assist the boat to a win and a place at the Olympics.
In today?s race at the Shunyi course in Beijing the Aussies started well, took a narrow lead at the 500 and stretched it to around 1.3 seconds just into the third five hundred. The experienced British crew were favoured but Australia was considered capable of creating an exceptional performance.
The Francis Hegerty, Matt Ryan (stroke and bow) Sydney Uni pair combined with Melbourne Uni?s ?engine room? of Cam McKenzie McHarg and James Marburg (no?s 3 and 2) with QAS, and 1976 SUBC Olympian Tim Conrad as coach, were considered a genuine medal chance and with the right row capable of a good result.
The four had encountered a few problems in their semi ? final. Stroke Hegerty had arrived at the course with some illness and had spent some time before going on the water in the vicinity of the rest-rooms. This may have explained their relatively sluggish start, being near last at the 1000. The crew made up quite a lot of ground to finish a close second and book their Olympic Final berth.
As the crews crossed the 1500 m line in the final it was still Australia but the British crew were making ground and had moved into second but still trailed by 1.5 seconds. Into the final 250 and the Brits were rapidly catching the Aussies. Our crew went up to 41 and then 44 rate to try and hold out the British. Unfortunately with around 150 to run the Brits hit the lead were too strong into the final sprint and took out gold. An excellent silver to a brand new Aussie Four combination with genuine speed and firepower on board. Let?s hope we see them back in the Aussie teams over the next four years.
SUBC congratulates Francis Hegerty and Matt Ryan and their MUBC crew mates ( James and Cameron) on a wonderful campaign to qualify the boat and win the silver medal. Congratulations also to their coach Tim Conrad.
The photo is the cover from the Sunday Telegraph of 10th Aug - we couldn't resist thos one of the four with the unintended caption " Send in the Tanks".