AUSTRALIA'S rowers have gone from strength-to-strength on day three of competition at Eton Dorney, with the men's four leading the way with an Olympic record in their heat.
A tail wind made for fast racing on the Olympic course and a number of records tumbled as all four Australian crews in action progressed to the next round of racing.
The men's four qualified for the semi-finals with their victory in the heat, while the women's double scull, women's quad scull and men's eight each booked their places in the medal race. But it was the Australian men's four that stole the headlines in an event that is already being widely tipped as a showdown between them and Great Britain.
Joshua Dunkley-Smith, Drew Ginn, James Chapman and Will Lockwood had the first chance to impress in heat 1 and didn't disappoint, moving a length clear of the field after just 500m.
Their pace was electric in the fast conditions and despite easing off over the closing stages, their time of 5:47.06 broke the old Olympic record by a second and a half.
Two-seat Chapman said it was good to get their program under way. "It was good to finally let it rip after two days of watching everyone else race," Chapman said. "It's always good to get out front and stuck into our work."
Ginn meanwhile, who is aiming to become the first Australian athlete to win four gold medals from four Olympic Games, said the noise of the crowd was terrific. "I didn't realise it was for the British, I thought it was for us," Ginn said. "You can't tell the difference between who is supporting who and that is the great thing about the Games. You always feel as an athlete that people are supporting the competition and not just any one crew.
"We said before the heat to not underestimate any competition and this performance sets us up well for the rest of the week." The women's double scull of Kim Crow and Brooke Pratley also began their regatta in fine style with a comfortable victory that saw them qualify directly for the final. With Crow also racing in the women's single scull it was crucial for the Australian crew to secure direct passage through to the final and they did so in style, going under the previous Olympic record, which had been eclipsed one race earlier by Great Britain.
Pratley, who was crowned world champion in the event six years ago on the same course, said she had always felt comfortable at Eton. "This is actually the first time I have been back in the double since 2006 and I am really enjoying it," Pratley said. "It's really nice to come back here." With the women's double also facing a gold medal tussle with Team GB, the girl from Crookwell paid tribute to their rivals Anna Watkins and Katherine Grainger. "I've got a lot of respect for the British girls, I think they're great athletes. I actually think we're pretty good too and we will go out there and give it our best and see where it takes us."
Meanwhile in repechage racing the women's quad scull of Amy Clay, Pauline Frasca, Kerry Hore and Dana Faletic won a superb showdown with the USA to progress to the final on Day 5. The top four crews would earn a spot in the race for medals but the Australian crew took the race by the scruff of the neck early on. The USA came after Australia with 500m remaining, but when their bow ball drew level, the Clay stroked crew lifted and won the repechage by less than a second in a time of 6:18.80. Hore will now row in her third consecutive women's quad Olympic final on Day 5, while Clay, Faletic and Frasca will compete in their second Olympic final.
The men's eight added to the excellent day for Australia's crews with a fourth place finish in their repechage. With four crews to qualify for the final, Australia faced a tense battle with the Netherlands and Poland on the way to the line, but lifted to hold off Poland, the world number two ranked crew. Great Britain won the repechage ahead of Canada and the Netherlands, with all crews aiming to end the streak of the all powerful German crew that has been unbeaten over the last four years.
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