18.08.2008 – Rohan Williams
Sydney University rowers Matt Ryan and Francis Hegerty were members of the Australian coxless four who almost caused a major upset at the Shunyi Olympic Rowing Park on Saturday, when they threatened Great Britain for the gold medal.
The pair, along with team-mates Cameron McKenzie-McHarg and James Marburg, finished a courageous second to the highly-favoured British crew.
Australia finished with a time of 6.07.85, behind the British 6.06.57, while France claimed the bronze medal.
The British crew, winners of the past three Olympic gold medals, were pushed to the end by the Australians, only taking the lead with 200 metres remaining.
The result represents a large turnaround for the Australian four who originally missed qualification in the men’s eight and then had to qualify for the fours at the Olympic Regatta in Poland. The four were the last picked by selectors, and earlier this year contemplated giving up the sport.
“Six months ago, we were on the scrapheap of Rowing Australia,” Marburg said after the race. “We were thinking about going back to our day jobs but we hung in there and stuck together.”
All in their first Olympics, the crew said the medal was a result for the battlers and underdogs.
“It’s more than you could dream about. I’m rapt, couldn’t be prouder,” Hegerty, a Sydney University Sports Scholarship holder, said after the race.
The medal is the second so far of the Olympics for Sydney University Sport athletes, after Robin Bell won a canoeing bronze in the men’s C1 slalom earlier in the week.