Six athletes associated with Griffith have been selected in the Under 23 (U23), Under 21 (U21) and Under 19 (U19) Australian Rowing Teams to compete at the World Rowing Cup 3 Simulation Regatta in June at the 2000 Sydney Olympics rowing venue in Penrith.
The crews were determined after rowers participated in trials at Lake Barrington, Tasmania, following the 2021 Aon Australian Rowing Championships.
Five current Griffith students got the nod, with Cormac Kennedy-Leverett (Bachelor of Engineering Hons) selected in the U23 Men’s single scull, Danica Free (Bachelor of Engineering Hons) making the U21 women’s quad scull, Lachlan Wright (Bachelor of Business) selected for the U19 men’s coxless four, Miller Rowe (Bachelor of Business) in the U23 men’s coxed eight and Anna Blackwell (Bachelor of Exercise Science) the U21 women’s coxed eight.
Mackenzie Branch, who trains with Griffith University Surfers Paradise Rowing Club, was also selected in the U19 men’s coxless four.
The simulation regatta is the last of the season, a final chance for junior athletes to post their best performances.
It will also feature Australia’s Senior Australian Rowing Team crews, as they prepare for the rescheduled Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Recent Griffith graduate Molly Goodman (Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice), who is based at the Women’s National Training Centre in Penrith, has a nervous wait to confirm her likely Olympic spot, with selectors to announce the team in June.
Unfortunately, talented fellow graduate Georgina Gotch (Bachelor of Business) has suffered a back injury, ruling her out of contention.
Ahead of the official Olympic team announcement, Director Sports Engagement at Griffith, Duncan Free OAM and Head Rowing Coach at Griffith Sports College, Lincoln Handley, have already been named as Australian coaches.
Olympic Gold Medalist (Rowing) Free will coach the U19 mens coxless four.
“I’ve represented Australia a number of times, but this is the first time officially as a coach so it’s going to be a new experience for me, sitting on the other side of the fence and I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
“It’s a bit of a strange feeling because when you push your crew off the bank and they row up to the start line you almost feel a little bit useless because there’s nothing more you can do.
“It is up to the athlete to perform at that point although you still get nervous for them.”
Free says being selected for the simulation regatta is an excellent training opportunity.
“I think it’s a great experience for our younger ones to compete against our Olympic athletes,” he added.
“We are actually trying to get the New Zealand rowers to come over as well, given the travel bubble opening up.
“It would be wonderful if the NZ rowing team, whether it be the Olympic or the under aged teams, could join us because they are quite strong in rowing and have been for the last couple of Olympic cycles.
“I also think given the circumstance of not being able to go and race overseas (due to Covid) it would be a wonderful experience.”
“The regatta will provide our pathway teams the chance to compete against our top elite crews as they prepare to take on the world in Tokyo,” Rowing Australia Deputy Performance Director, Jaime Fernandez, said.
Lincoln Handley agrees the simulation regatta will be a wonderful opportunity for Griffith’s young athletes.
“It’s a great result for the club, the program, and the dedication of our volunteer coaches,” he said.
“The success of the club at the recent national championships reflects the supportive and collegiate culture we have been working so hard on.
“In lots of ways the challenges of 2020 enabled us to better prepare our athletes with more flexible university and work schedules. They were able to train harder and longer which has been reflected in this year’s team selection.
“If we can continue to enable a study / training / life balance for this group, we could see some great results down the track from these talented athletes.”
Handley’s Australian Paralympic rowers have one last event before Olympic selections are announced.
“The Para athletes I have worked with train exceptionally hard for the challenges they face,” he added.
“They are a refreshing group to work with as they push their own boundaries at every opportunity and keep things very much in perspective for me. All athletes challenge my thinking in some way, but the para group have me out of the box a lot.”
The University has enjoyed a naming rights partnership with Griffith University Surfers Paradise Rowing Club for around 15 years.
Current Griffith students selected for the Simulation Regatta Cormac Kennedy-Leverett, Danica Free and Lachlan Wright are also members of the club. Bond University student Mackenzie Branch trains alongside them at the club.
“This a is key partnership for Griffith which provides a supportive pathway for school rowers that wish to continue to compete and develop in the sport,” Duncan Free said.
Griffith Sports College currently supports more than 600 athletes juggling what can be a challenging combination of study and elite sport commitments.