23.06.2008 – Graham Croker

Sydney University Boat Club will have six rowers and a reserve oarsman in Australian crews at the Beijing Olympics following a successful final Olympic qualification regatta in Poznan, Poland last week.

With three crews securing places in Poznan, Australia has qualified all 14 boat classes for the Olympics for the first time. They include the women’s eight, quad, double, single, pair and lightweight double and the men’s eight, four, pair, quad, double, single, lightweight four and lightweight double.

Included in those crews will be Sydney University’s Matthew Ryan and Francis Hegerty in the men’s coxless four, Jeremy Stevenson and coxswain Marty Rabjohn in the men’s eight and Liz Kell and Brooke Pratley in the women’s eight. Terrence Alfred, who filled in for an ill Ryan in the men’s four final in Poznan, has been named as a reserve for all of the men’s crews.

The men’s four stormed to victory despite the setback of losing Ryan, who was forced to withdraw shortly before the race through sickness and was replaced by Alfred in the bow seat.

Alfred joined Hegerty Cameron McKenzie-McHarg and James Marburg to win in a time of 6:05.85. They moved a length clear after only 750m and continued to move clear of China in second place. The Australian’s crossed the line two seconds clear of the Chinese with both crews moving forward to Beijing.

Hegerty said that the late withdrawal of Matt Ryan was a tough challenge to overcome.

“It was a bit unsettling this morning when we knew Matt was out but we are lucky to have such a great replacement in T (Terrence Alfred)”, Hegerty said. “We were aware of the job we had come to do and we put our mark on the race in the first 500m and never looked back.”

With all 14 crews qualified, the rowing contingent of the Australian Olympic team will be the largest with 48 athletes.