Trans-Tasman rivalry heats up

Tamar’s Blair Tunevitsch was a member of the  lightweight four  crew that won  their heat  at the world titles.

Tamar’s Blair Tunevitsch was a member of the lightweight four crew that won their heat at the world titles.

AUSTRALIA’S Tasmanian-based men’s lightweight four crew has made a major statement at the rowing world championships in the Netherlands.

Up against the in-form New Zealand crew which won the world cup in Lucerne last month, the Aussies surged ahead at the 900m mark of the Amsterdam course to win in 6:15:34, two seconds ahead of their Trans-Tasman rivals.

Coached by Tasmanian Institute of Sport head coach Brett Crow, the crew consisted of Tamar’s Blair Tunevitsch, Sam Beltz, of Lindisfarne, Tom Gibson, of Huon, and Queenslander Nick Silcox.

“It’s always good to get a solid race out the way at the start of a regatta like this,’’ said Beltz, a 2011 world champ and two-time Olympian who turns 34 on Sunday.

‘‘We were fairly confident as we settled into our mid-race rhythm, I just called it how I saw it and slowly but surely we made it through the pack and put down on the other side for the win.

“It’s just a heat at the end of the day, the New Zealanders haven’t been beaten since last year’s world championships, they haven’t been beaten all year, so sure it’s nice to take some confidence from the fact we beat them today but at the end of the day it was a top-two finish to make the semi-final, and it’s all about Friday now and putting it on the line to get to the final.” 

There was less joy for the crew’s lightweight training partners Ali Foot, of Tamar, and Queenslander Darryn Purcell who also needed a top-two finish to progress to their A-final.

The coxless pair finished fourth and will race repechages later this week.

Facing a similar path is former Launceston rower George Ellis who also finished fourth with Christopher Cunningham-Reid, of Sydney, in a coxed pair coached by Huon’s John Driessen.

On a busy day two of the regatta, the Australian team continued its good form with six crews progressing into semi-finals or finals and the para-rowing team blazing the trail.

The lightweight women’s quadruple scull crew of Hannah Every-Hall, Maia Simmonds, Sarah Pound and Laura Dunn had to finish in the top two of their heat to progress to their final and did just that, coming in behind the home nation crew.

Having begun racing together at the start of the year and walking away with two world cup wins, Olympia Aldersey and Sally Kehoe led their heat of the women’s double scull from start to finish. 

‘‘We got a few things right early on and probably need to improve on some things further as we go through the week,’’ Kehoe said. 

“But in general we are really happy with the preparation that we’ve had and we’ve started the regatta by putting the right foot forward.”

The men’s double scull crew of Alexander Belonogoff and James Mcrae will compete in repechage after finishing behind Italy’s Romano Battisti and Francesco Fossi.

Up against in-form Germany and reigning world champions Great Britain, Australia’s men’s coxed eight finished fourth and will compete in the repechage today.

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