New South Wales remain Kings at Australian National Championships
The Australian National Championships and Interstate Regatta were held in scorching temperatures this weekend at Champion Lakes in Perth, Western Australia. The event served as a last tryout for Olympic aspirants before their final selection regatta on Friday week. The Interstate regatta, which is held the day after the National Championships conclude, is a contest between the best of the best from all states across eight events.
The “Blue Riband” event - the Kings Cup for men’s eights - features an historic and intense rivalry between New South Wales and Victoria. Some of the world’s best compete in this event and the world’s best time has been challenged on many occasions. The New South Wales crew, stacked with Australian representatives Daniel Noonan, Fergus Pragnell, Matthew Ryan, Nicholas Purnell, James Chapman, Francis Hegerty, Samuel Loch, Nick Hudson and cox Tobias Lister, made it five wins in a row when they defeated arch rivals Victoria, which included Olympic medallists as well as Aussie rowing legend Drew Ginn.
New South Wales, who were highly motivated to maintain their unbeaten streak in this event, overhauled a fast-starting Victorian crew at the halfway point and charged for home, finishing over one boat length clear.
Noonan, the stroke, said “that would be our most memorable from the last five years as there was a load of pressure going into the race. That might be the last race for a few of us for New South Wales (due to post Olympic retirements) and we didn't want to let that opportunity go.”
Victoria, however, won the Australia Cup as the best performing state across all the events, including a dominant victory in the Queens Cup for the women’s eights.
The week-long national Championship regatta saw a mixture of predictable wins and surprise upsets, with the lightweight national team featuring strongly against heavyweight competition.
In the men’s pair, Ginn with partner Joshua Dunkley-Smith, lived up to their reputation as favourites with victory in a closely contested race, showcasing the strength in depth of the Australian heavyweight men’s sweep group. This gave Ginn his fifth national title in the men’s pair. Right in amongst the race were current World Champions in the lightweight men’s four Samuel Beltz and Anthony Edwards, who upset the heavies earlier in the week when qualifying directly for the final.
However, the world champion lightweights prevailed in a dramatic heavyweight coxless four’s championship. After jumping out to an early lead, the crew of Edwards, Beltz, Benjamin Cureton and Todd Skipworth fought to hold on to a slim lead over the cream of the men’s heavyweight sweep squad who were split into two different fours. Despite steering issues that hampered the Drew Ginn four early on in the race the crew reached a climax in the last 100m as they crossed into the lane of the other heavyweight four, who in turn collided with the lightweights.
The world champions held their nerve, untangled themselves, and crossed the line as winners. The two heavyweight fours were later disqualified. "We got off to a really quick start today and managed to establish a bit of a lead early on, which helped us out," Beltz said. "The end of the race was pretty crazy.” They are showing serious form ahead of the European season where they hope to convert their World title into Olympic Gold.
In the women’s pair, world medallists Sarah Tait and Kate Hornsey comfortably won the title, showing their strength as they approach the Olympic trials. They were chased home by pairs who will be hoping to make up the national eight that will be travelling to Europe to attempt to qualify for London 2012 at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland..
In the sculling events, World medallist Kim Crow and Olympic Champion David Crawshay went back to back in winning the National Title and the Interstate Championship for single sculls.
Crow was particularly outstanding, taking home no less than five titles, including the Queens Cup for eights.
Crawshay also teamed up with fellow 2008 Olympic Champion, Scott Brennan, to comfortably win the double sculls title – the crew look to be on track to defend their Olympic gold medal later this year.
The reigning World Champions in the men’s quad, stroked by Noonan, moved one step closer to selection by dominating their national championship final.
In the lightweight women’s single, 2011 World Championship double scull finalists Hannah Every-Hall and Alice McNamara came first and third respectively. Ella Flecker, who finished second, will be looking to repeat that performance at the selection regatta on Friday week to try to break into the Olympic class boat.
The Australian National Championship and Interstate regatta is the largest event on the Australian rowing calendar and crowns champions from school goers to Olympians. It is a week-long event and in 2013 will also incorporate the first round of the Samsung Rowing World Cup to create a festival of rowing at the Olympic venue in Sydney.
All eyes are now focused on the National Selection trials, to decide the 2012 Olympic Team, which will run from 23 March to 1 April.
For full results and reports click here.