Less than four months out from the Tokyo Olympics, Sports Editor ROB SHAW talks to the three Tasmanian rowers still in contention to compete.
SARAH Hawe didn't hesitate when asked her goal for the Tokyo Olympics.
"The ultimate goal: the gold medal," said the experienced international who will seek to emulate her two world championship wins when she makes her Olympic debut at the age of 34.
"I think we've got a very strong squad at the moment and our coach, John Keogh, has stated that we might be able to achieve more than one gold medal. We've got the pair, the four and the eight and who knows where they will come, but we're all very strong crews."
Seven gold medals at world championships or world cups since 2017 have all come in the women's four but Hawe said she would be happy to make any crew in the Japanese capital.
"At the moment, Annabelle McIntyre and Jessica Morrison are in the pair and four. We're trialling different scenarios and options. At the moment I'm in the eight.
"We will be racing crews until World Cup simulation regattas towards the end of April so will reassess crews from then."
Victorian-born, Hawe moved to Tasmania in 2011, joined Huon RC, was named joint Tasmanian athlete of the year in 2017 and has no doubt where she considers home, despite helping her native Victoria to Queens Cup success at Lake Barrington last month.
"I'm not Tasmanian born, but the state has definitely embraced me and I do feel I have had my greatest success being supported by the Tasmanian Institute of Sport and my club Huon and the whole Tasmanian rowing community.
"It's so good to be here and not the Sydney course just because we've been there for the last nine years so it's lovely to come back to Barrington.
"It almost feels like a normal pennant regatta for me because I can't walk 50 metres in the boat park without saying hi to someone and stopping for a chat which is just so Tasmanian and lovely to be home."
Having never experienced an Olympics, Hawe said Tokyo would remain special despite all the COVID complications.
"I'm not an Olympian so this will be my first experience at an Olympic Games and although I'm told it won't be the same, I'm yet to experience the alternative and I still think the sentiment behind the Olympics is the same. There's still the competition, it will still bring the world together and still have a symbol of hope for the world at a dark time.
"The AOC has been very good at informing us about all the protocols and trying to ensure that it is as safe as possible. There will be testing on arrival and we will be going in very late just before our event and out basically as soon as you've stopped competing, so I don't have concerns about the health situation of the Games."
CIONA Wilson laughed at the suggestion that Olympic qualification would have been much easier if she wasn't part of a phenomenally-strong Aussie women's sweep squad.
"I'm pretty proud to be an Australian," said the Tamar rower, who will turn 29 a month before the Tokyo Games.
"I'm happy with where I am. I did all I can at trials and we're amongst a very strong team this year. The 16 would probably be among the top rowing federations in the world and it's an incredible athlete group that I'm part of. We had the two open women's eights out there (at national championships) with 16 athletes across those boats and I think 0.77 seconds between them so it's pretty hot competition.
"It's mind-blowing to be a part of that. You probably don't get this in a lot of other federations to have such an elite standard and tight-knit group of women.
"They've announced the squad of 16 and at the moment I'm probably around seventh ranked and we're not quite sure exactly what the boating situation will look like going forward into the Olympics.
"I'm in a good position in a lot of aspects but it's going to be a challenging time. We've got a few simulation regattas because we're not travelling overseas to the world cups and a lot of hard work and training still to be done."
Wilson was delighted to race the pair, four and eight at Lake Barrington last month.
"It is nice to get away from Sydney and Canberra and I feel very lucky to be back on our home course. I didn't realise how much I took it for granted but being back with all the mainlanders, they're very in awe of what we have down here in Tasmania so it's pretty special to be back home racing."
THE start line holds more concerns than the finish for the Australian crew seeking to qualify a lightweight women's double for the Tokyo Olympics.
Huon's Georgia Nesbitt had no doubts that she and NSW crewmate Sarah Pound can achieve the required top-two finish at the final qualification regatta in Switzerland.
"Sarah and I finished ninth in 2019 and it was the top seven that qualified so from that result we're in the next two," she said. "But obviously lightweight racing is very tight so it will definitely be very hard but we're both looking forward to the challenge."
However, global COVID qualifications may threaten Australian involvement in Lucerne.
"It's pretty definite that we'll be going. When the regatta first got confirmed there was definitely a lot of logistical challenges and a lot of uncertainty but we now think it's pretty certain, providing things stay the way they are.
"I think it's just a matter of being very organised and having a plan in place which I think we do now so it's looking pretty promising.
"I feel this sort of opportunity doesn't roll around very often. There are obviously a lot of risks with COVID and there will be people from all over the world there but there are also a lot of smart people and procedures in place so I think it will all be managed very well."
Nesbitt, who turns 29 next month, said she would love to add to a distinguished Tasmanian honour roll.
"I've always said I'd only ever go as far as I could in sport while I enjoyed it and never really knew how far that was going to be, but I'm still here and still enjoying it and it would be awesome to go to an Olympics.
"Tasmania has always had a really strong national representation. I can remember when I was one of the young tackers down at Huon looking up to the likes of Ali Foot, Kerry Hore, Ella Flecker, they were among the really good senior athletes and I was in awe of them. We've also had Olympic crews training down there in the past. And now to think that's sort of where I am is pretty cool."
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