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    Lucy Stephan.

Rower Lucy Stephan returns with gold

By Colin MacGillivray

Nhill rower Lucy Stephan has returned to Australia with a gold medal around her neck after representing her country at the 2019 World Rowing Championships in Europe.

Stephan was part of an Australian women’s four team that went undefeated at the regatta, winning gold by more than two seconds from the Netherlands.

The Australian boat also qualified for next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games with its dominant results at the championships.

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Stephan, 27, is no stranger to the world stage, having represented Australia at the 2016 Rio Olympics as a member of the Australian women’s eight.

She has rowed for Australia as a member of the women’s four at the past three world championships, winning gold in 2017 and silver last year.

Stephan said the performance ranked as one of her greatest achievements.

She said while competing at her first Olympics would always be a personal highlight, the way in which Australia qualified left a slightly bitter taste in her mouth.

Australia was only given a late call-up after most of the Russian athletes were disqualified for systematic doping, giving Stephan and her team-mates limited preparation.

“The way we work is in four-year cycles and, having done one cycle and learned a lot from that, I said, ‘I don’t want to do that again’,” she said.

“To come back and win the world championships in 2017 was pretty huge.

“To win a silver medal last year was disappointing; we were there to win and didn’t achieve that.

“There were three of us in the boat returning this year and it was brought up a few times before the race. It was kind of our redemption – we were going there to win.

“In the lead-up to the Olympics it gets harder and harder. People are there to qualify their boats, so it’s definitely up there as one of the best races I’ve been involved in and one of my biggest achievements.”

Stephan is now back in Victoria for three weeks’ rest before starting pre-season training in Penrith, with national time trials in December.

She said she looked forward to taking part in the build-up to next year’s Olympics knowing Australia had already qualified.

Stephan was unsure if she would row in the four or eight-person boat in Tokyo, but said she expected to remain part of the women’s four.

“We don’t actually qualify ourselves for the Olympics, we qualify the seats for Australia,” she said.

“Then we have to go back and train and they’ll re-select the boats that they want to send.

“The crews could change a little bit – we don’t really know.

“The four requires a bit more finesse and you have to row really technically well as well as being strong, whereas in the eight you have really powerful girls in there.

“I’m probably more suited for the four, and given that I’ve been in the four for the past three years, that probably remains true.

“Hopefully I’ll be in one that wins gold.”

The entire September 11, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!