Durham Rowers bring home four Golds from Youth Olympics as Team GB triumph
THREE DURHAM ATHLETES contributed to the success of the GB rowing team in Australia the Youth Olympics this January.
In the rowing, Team GB topped the medal tally with seven gold, two silver and three bronze medals, far outstripping second place New Zealand.
Three Durham rowers, Joanna Fitzsimons (Collingwood), Sophie Vellacott (St Cuthburt’s) and Kieren Emery (assistant rowing coach) were all selected to compete in the event, which included crews from Australia, New Zealand and China.
Kieren Emery was a star performer for Team GB and Durham, bringing home a total of 3 medals, two gold and one silver.
In the heat of the men’s coxless pairs Emery and crew mate Matthew Tarrant led all the way down the 2000 metre course, earning them a place in the A final.
In the final, also on the 17th, they faced stiff competition from fellow British athletes Nash and Rossiter. After a closely fought first 1000 metres Tarrant and Emery were in fourth place, led by Australia, the other GB crew and New Zealand, however by the 1500 metre mark they had crept up to third place, behind Nash and Rossiter and Australia. >>A final dash for the line saw Tarrant and Emery take up the pace and steam through Australia, finishing in second place in a time of 6.44.78, just under a second ahead of Australia and behind the other GB crew.
After that there was no looking back for Emery. Just hours later the two British crews, who had been competing against each other that morning, came together to form the men’s coxless four.
In the heat that afternoon they overcame their race fatigue from earlier in the day to come second in their heat and gain a place in the A final the next morning.
However, being beaten by New Zealand meant that the boys still had something to prove, and given Great Britain’s dominance in the coxless pairs the coxless four had a reputation to live up to. After a fight between New Zealand and Great Britain in the first 500 metres of the race the rest of the crews were left lagging behind as the GB crew increased their lead over New Zealand and the rest of the field.
Although the New Zealand crew were never far behind, the GB four maintained their lead across the finish line, winning gold in a time of 6.08.77, just ahead of New Zealand.
Emery’s winning day was not yet over, with the men’s eight heats just a couple of hours after the four’s final, however the intensity of racing did not seem to faze the boys as they stormed through the heats into the A final.
In the last race of the day the GB crew were led to the half way mark by New Zealand, but a push after 1000 metres saw the GB crew step up the pace and push back, taking a second out of New Zealand by the 1500 metre mark, and finishing ahead by three seconds, taking gold in a time of 5.53.30.
Joanna Fitzsimons came home with an equally impressive medal haul. In the women’s coxless pair she teamed up with Lottie Howard-Merrill.
In the morning heats the pair cruised to finish second, gaining them a place in the A final later that morning. In the final Fitzsimons and Howard-Merrill took it up another level and led the Australian crew who had beaten them earlier in the morning from the very start. By the 1000 metre mark they had a two second lead over the rest of the field, and won gold in a time of 7.36.82.
That afternoon Fitzsimons and Howard-Merrill teamed up with Arnold and Carnegie-Brown, who came third in the pairs race, to form the women’s coxless four.
They continued their success by winning their heat and gaining a place in the A final the next day. After a night to recover the girls were back on the water the following morning.
After Australia taking the lead in the first 500 metres of the race, by 1000 metres the GB four had pushed through the pack of Australian crews to lead by one second, which they extended to two by the 1500 metre mark, and then by three to cross the finish line in a time of 7.01.38, again in gold position.
The girls did not have time to rest though, and were soon back on the water that morning in the women’s eight, where Fitzsimons was joined by fellow Durham University rower Sophie Vellacott.
After winning their heat comfortably, the crew came across a greater challenge in the final. The eight stormed out to third place by 500 metres, and had gained another place to be in second by half way, but by the last 500 metres the New Zealand crew, which led from the start, had pulled away, and the GB crew was overtaken by two Australian crews.
The competition was too strong for the girls, most of whom had already raced on both days, and they dropped back to fourth place.
The Youth Olympics are a great opportunity for young British athletes to test themselves in international competition, and British rowing looks set to continue successfully from the impressive team medal haul, of which Durham’s athletes contributed greatly.
All three look set to have an impressive season and future rowing career.