25.08.2008 – Graham Croker

Sydney University rowers in the Australian men’s and women’s eights at the Beijing Olympic regatta made it through to the finals but missed out on the medals.

Coxswain Marty Rabjohns and oarsman Jeremy Stevenson were members of the men’s eight who were forced to go through a repechage to reach the final, where they finished sixth.

Sydney University Sports Scholarship holders Elizabeth Kell and Brooke Pratley were members of the women’s eight, who were also forced to go through a repechage to reach the final, where they also finished sixth.

The men’s eight of David Dennis, Sam Loch, James Chapman, Tom Laurich, Stevenson, Sam Conrad, Stephen Stewart and Rabjohns had a tough start to the regatta at the Shunyi Olympic Rowing and Canoeing Park when their rudder locked less than 100 strokes into their opening heat.

The malfunction spun the Australians into the lane of world champions Canada and the boats avoided a collision by only metres. The Australians would have been disqualified had they collided.

They finished fourth in the heat behind Canada, Poland and the Netherlands, had the craft repaired and won a place in the final when they finished third in the sudden-death repechage behind the US and the Netherlands.

The Australians went into the final with a genuine medal chance but dropped off in the second 500m and finished a long last, over a full boat length behind fifth-placed Netherlands.

Canada burned off the field in the final to win the gold in 5min 23.89sec ahead of Great Britain (5:25.11) and the US (5:25.34).

The Australian women’s eight of Pauline Frasca, Brooke Pratley, Sally Kehoe, Natalie Bale, Elizabeth Kell, Kate Hornsey, Sarah Tait, Sarah Heard and Elizabeth Patrick finished third in their heat behind Romania and the Netherlands to earn a place in the sudden-death repechage.

They scraped into the final after finishing fourth in the repechage behind Canada, the Netherlands and Great Britain.

The US won the gold medal in 6:05.34, ahead of the Netherlands (6:07.22) and Romania (6:07.25).

Australia finished sixth in 6:14.22.