Sydney: It’s finally dawned on us, we’re off to Athens

Sydney Morning Herald, Australia
July 15 2004

It’s finally dawned on us, we’re off to Athens
By John Huxley

Rising stars … members of the coxed eight rowing team for the
Athens Olympics return to shore after their final dawn training
session at Haberfield yesterday. Photo: Steve Christo

Oarsome? Well, Australia’s coxed eight rowing team certainly hoped so
as they completed their final dawn training session on Iron Cove at
Haberfield yesterday before heading overseas for the Olympic Games in
Athens next month.

“Yes, it’s really gone very well,” said their coach, Tim McLaren.
“Whether we come first or last, I think we’re satisfied that
preparing at home, on Sydney Harbour, was the best thing for us.
Nothing should faze us now.”

With barely four weeks to go until the start of the Games,
Australia’s team of some 470 athletes and 300 officials is already on
the move. The champion hurdler Jana Pittman has been based in
Switzerland for several weeks and will compete this weekend in Spain.

After competing in the United States recently, Ian Thorpe has
rejoined the swimming team, which goes into camp in Germany at the
end of the month. The taekwondo team is currently in Korea. The
cycling team – currently grounded – also plans to move to Germany for
its final preparations.

And weightlifting officials are still looking in his native Armenia
for the sole male team member, Sergo Chakhoyan, who has gone missing.

The rowers, too, had the option of competing and training overseas,
but declined.

“It was a mix of things,” explained McLaren. “The conditions, the
facilities, the fact that a few of our guys are married men with
family, who didn’t want to spend months away.”

Instead, after a couple of days of rest and recreation at home with
their families – “necessary psychological refreshment, after all the
hard work”, says coach McLaren – they will swap their winter gear for
summer gear and fly out on Monday.

They plan to rendezvous in Singapore before catching a plane to their
interim, lakeside headquarters near Varese in northern Italy. They
are not due to arrive in Greece until a fortnight before the Games
start on August 13.

Most of the nine-man squad are members of the UTS Rowing Club. Those
who weren’t relocated to Sydney to train.

The team includes a record three brothers – Geoff, James and Stephen
Stewart, the sculling and rowing medallist Bo Hanson and former
Oarsome Foursome member Mike McKay, who will be competing in his
fifth Olympics.

McLaren believes the team will go well. “It’s a good mix of guys with
plenty of experience and guys rowing at the Games for the first

Is he concerned at early reports of his winds – and rough waters – at
the Schinias Rowing Centre, north-east of Athens?

“Not at all. After training on Sydney Harbour during winter, we’re
confident we can handle anything.”