Big Wednesday looms for the Australian rowing team with an Olympic record and four gold medals on offer at Sea Forest Waterway.
Despite an 18-month hiatus from international competition, Australia has dominated the man-made waterway off Tokyo Bay to the point where Goulburn Valley should ready themselves for some new canned fruit ads.
Except this time, our women’s coxless four will feature front and centre.
Australia has a rich heritage in the four, and in addition to the world champion women’s crew the men have also only lost one race during the current Olympic cycle.
But it’s the women who have taken the mantle from the men.
It’s been almost 30 years but Australia’s female rowers finally get their own shot at Olympic glory in this event, which has been reintroduced for these Games.
The Aussie crew of Rosemary Popa, Lucy Stephan, Annabelle McIntyre and Jessica Morrison set an Olympic record in their heat and are specials to better this in the final.
Up until now, the women’s four event had been retired from the Olympic program.
But with the International Olympic Committee moving towards gender equity, the women’s coxless four class has been added to the rowing program for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The IOC is also aiming to reduce the number of athletes competing at the Olympics so to make room for the event, the men’s lightweight four has been removed — ironically, the event their coach John Keogh rowed for Australia in.
Scheduling has helped the Aussie boat in that Annabelle McIntyre and Jessica Morrison will row in their pair in the women’s semi final after their gold medal tilt.
The four combines the speed and power of the eight with the technical proficiency of the pairs and there is great expectation of this particular crew.
Twenty minutes later, the Aussie men’s four – with arguably the world’s best rower in Alex Hill sitting in stroke – take the water.
The four has a rich legacy in Australia and in Wednesday’s final they go up against great rivals Great Britain.
Australia and Great Britain have gone one-two in the past three Olympics and both countries are the only winners of this race since 1992.
In an hour of power, Australia’s men’s and women’s quad sculls will also race for gold.
Experienced campaigner Cameron Girdlestone had predicted Australia would shock the world at these Games and he gets the chance to better his Rio silver medal in the men’s quad.
Wild weather has caused havoc with the rowing program but tropical storm Nepartak is expected to ease overnight.
In all, Australia qualified nine boats for these Games – one more boat than Rio – and eight are still in contention for medals.
Our men’s and women’s eight will need to fight their way through the repechage but both face a tough ask to challenge for medals.
The women’s eight face a particularly tough challenge — if they get through they come up against the dominant US crew, the winner of the last three Olympic golds.
But Aussie head women’s coach John Keogh said the Aussie eight will be better for the enforced weather break, after the eights were brought forward a day.
And as for the four, Keogh said: “We’ve been working on combinations and to have Annabelle and Jess, our women’s pair, joining the crew, I think has worked well for us.”
But what Keogh doesn’t want to highlight is some lightning fast times recorded in training recently.
Times that will result in an anticipated Olympic record in a historic day for world rowing.
Originally published asAussie rowers set sights on record, gold in Tokyo