25.03.2008 – Graham Croker

Sydney University’s Lachie Milne and Robin Bell paddled their way to Olympic selection at qualifying regattas at the Penrith Whitewater Stadium and the Sydney International Regatta Centre at the weekend.

Milne and Bell had put themselves firmly in contention for Beijing Games berths with solid performances at the Oceania Olympic Qualification Championships at Penrith the previous weekend and backed up those efforts over the Easter weekend.

Bell, who will be contesting his third Olympic Games in the K1, and Milne and his C2 partner Mark Bellofiore, who will contest their second Olympics, met the criteria for nomination to the Australian Olympic team with solid performances at Penrith.

Bell booked his ticket to Beijing after taking a four-second lead into his final run before producing a confident and clean run, improving two seconds on his earlier performance and taking the win with a total time of 209.58s, more than seven seconds ahead of second-placed Kynan Maley.

“Kynan’s a top-class paddler and you can never rule him out so I’m really pleased with that win,” Bell said. “The plan from here is to spend time working toward some intense competition on the international circuit and some quality training time on the Olympic course in the lead up to the Games.”

Milne and Bellofiore were unchallenged in the Men’s C2 class, blitzing the field with a massive 28sec lead over of their competition. The pair cruised to victory with two solid runs to consolidate their win in the Oceania Championships the previous week to assure their Olympic spot.

Milne and Bellofiore were relieved to have the result out of the way, giving them time to work on their Olympic campaign in the coming months. Bellofiore, who works in accounting for PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Milne, a doctor at Nepean Hospital, will put their careers and studies on hold in a bid to focus on their Olympic preparations.

“It feels great to win today and secure Olympic nomination,” Milne said. “I’m relieved just to have it out of the way and now we will both put full-time work on hold and just work on some regular training sessions and look to build on some success at the World Cups which begin in June.”

Meanwhile, Sydney University’s Louise Natoli just failed to win an Olympic berth in the women’s K1.

After finishing second to Athens Olympic gold medallist, Elena Kaliska of Slovakia, on Saturday, Natoli was still in contention for Beijing, but lost out to Jacqui Lawrence in Monday’s racing.