The latest YOG continental qualification regatta was held in Port Vila, Vanuatu, from 22 to 23 January and followed on from a seven-day training camp. This was the first international rowing regatta held in Oceania outside Australia and New Zealand.  The nature of the camp was multi-faceted as several new nations were attending to be educated and exposed to Olympic style rowing.

Two qualification places were up for grabs for the Oceanian continent: one in the junior women’s single sculls and the other in the junior men’s single sculls.

Five nations were represented: American Samoa, Australia, the Republic of Kiribati, Samoa and Vanuatu. New Zealand has decided to not participate in the Youth Olympic Games within rowing as a limit exists on quota places overall for the National Olympic Committees.

Kiribati has become a recent provisional member of the World Rowing Federation, FISA, making it the 154th member of FISA.  This was needed in order for their athlete to be able to compete.  World Rowing will be working together to establish a national rowing programme with Kiribati as well other Oceania nations to promote rowing in the region.

Eight athletes, four in each event, raced for qualification. Vanuatu, Samoa and American Samoa each sent a male and a female sculler. Kiribati had one male sculler lining up and Australia one female sculler. Both athletes claimed the first and only qualification spot in each event.

The preparatory training camp was held in Port Vila’s Erakor Lagoon. The camp was run by Australian coach Andrew MacKenzie, who is currently living in Vanuatu.  MacKenzie was assisted by 2015 World Champion Sophie MacKenzie from New Zealand, Kiribati coach drew Tierney and Australian’s Jessica Richardson and Ben Southwell.

Oceania continental qualification regatta for YOG in Vanuatu © Steve McArthur

 

“This training camp and qualification regatta is an important step in World Rowing's design to develop the sport of rowing in certain Pacific Island countries following on from the success achieved in Vanuatu,” says Lee Spear, FISA Continental Representative for Oceania.

On her Facebook page, Sophie MacKenzie stated: “Currently, Samoa and American Samoa do not have the facilities to row in their country hence we have complete beginners here who I am teaching how to row. The goal is to eventually get these countries up and running their own rowing programmes in the near future. By hosting this regatta and 'training camp' week we are helping to expose these countries to rowing and showing them how Vanuatu has set up and run their own programme.”

American Samoa and Samoa have a long tradition of Fautasi boat racing; a 50-person rowing shell. Racing is hotly contested on the National ‘Flag Day’.  Both nations, due to this tradition, have an impressive talent pool of athletes.

There are four rowing events at the Youth Olympic Games: men’s and women’s single sculls and men’s and women’s pair. The qualification process will lead to 96 athletes being selected for the YOG.

Eight boats qualified for each of the four YOG boat classes at the World Rowing Junior Championships. This was followed by the Asian YOG Qualification Regatta. For an overview of qualification spots allotted to date, click here. 

Further qualification spots will be attributed in the coming months through three additional continental qualification regattas: one for the Americas (17-19 April 2018 in Curcuma, Chile), one for Europe (26-27 May in Gravelines, France) and one for Africa (July 2018 in Alger, Algeria).

Buenos Aires will host the 2018 Youth Olympic Games from 6 to 18 October 2018.  

A number of Youth Olympic Champions have continued on the path of success at the under-23 and senior levels. These include Tim Ole Naske of Germany who went on to become a two-time under-23 World Champion; Ciprian Tudos and Cristina Georgiana Popescu from Romania who respectively medalled in the senior men’s and women’s four at the European Rowing Championships; Rolandas Mascinskas of Lithuania who medalled at the World Rowing Cup and World Championship levels in the men’s double sculls and men’s quadruple sculls; Fiona Gammond of Great Britain who has medalled internationally in the women’s eight.

Sisters, Antonia and Melita Abraham of Chile took part in the 2014 YOG in Nanjing coming 5th , then claiming a silver medal at the 2015 World Rowing Junior Championships. In 2017 they took gold at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships and they will be inspiring young athletes in Buenos Aires as YOG Athlete Role Models alongside Cristian Rosso of Argentina.

Visit the 2018 Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games website here