25 August 2016
Rowing Australia will today announce a renewed partnership with Australia’s richest woman, Gina Rinehart, which is being described as “transformational” by its president.
Rinehart — who has already invested in the sport alongside the national swimming, synchronised swimming and volleyball teams — will, through Hancock Prospecting and the Georgina Hope Foundation, become the principal partner of Rowing Australia over the next four years.
“This is a significant and transformational investment for our sport. It’s the biggest, significant financial, commercial partnership we’ve had,” the president of Rowing Australia Rob Scott told The Australian.
Scott said the investment would primarily deliver direct financial support to all Australia’s elite rowers who attend the sport’s national training centres.
“It will help support their daily living expenses and also bringing us in-line, if not ahead, of the rest of the world in this regard,” said Scott, who is also the managing director of the industrial division at Wesfarmers.
“If you look at our past in rowing, a lot of the elite athletes have had to move state to state, year on year from different training venues and different coaches and that has not led to the best preparation.”
An ongoing problem for Australian rowing — and something Scott and his team have been at pains to address — is the fragmented, federated nature of the sport which sees athletes train with coaches away from any centralised team.
“It has also made it very difficult for them to hold down jobs or continue their studies,” Scott said.
“So providing this certainty with respect to the national training centres, firstly provides a world-class daily training environment but, importantly, it enables our athletes to have stability around location and the rest of their lives as well.”
Rinehart’s investment in rowing first came about last year when she funded a three-month Destination Gold camp at the national training centre in Canberra for all the Olympic qualified crews.
“That was big step forward for our team and through that process we got to know Hancock a lot better and Ms Rinehart got to know our athletes a lot better and she actually took an incredible personal interest in our rowers,” Scott said.
The second element to the new cash will be an investment in state-based pathways and development programs to grow the pipeline of potential elite rowers.
Scott, himself a two-time Olympian with a silver medal in the pair at the 1996 Atlanta Games, said the money meant the sport could get straight back to work after an Olympic Games that yielded Kim Brennan a gold medal in the single sculls and silver in both the men’s four and men’s quadruple sculls.
“In some sports, rowing included, it takes a while for the sport to get their act together post Olympics — we’ve already done the planning and we’re very keen to hit the ground running in the next couple of months to give our athletes the best opportunity,” he said.
Scott said he was happy with the improved Rio Olympic performance after Beijing yielded three silver medals and two bronze.
“With Kim winning our first gold medal for eight years and there being nine rowing medallists coming home, we’re really pleased with that result,” he said.
“We also increased our rating in the Olympic regatta from No 9 to No 4 on the rowing medal tally and that was a pleasing outcome.
“There are a number of our crews who would have liked to have better results on the day, which is understandable.
“It’s a relatively young team and we’re excited about the future opportunities for those athletes.”
That said, with Brennan likely to retire from the sport at an elite level, Scott and the team will need to find gold elsewhere.
“We are confident we can continue to improve our rowers — we want to be successful on the world stage and they want to win — our job in sport is to give them the best opportunity to do that,” he said.
“Whatever Kim decides to do, she will continue to be a huge inspiration for all rowers — and we don’t need to look much further than Kim Brennan for an example of what you need to do to be a gold medallist.
“Kim is not just a sensational athlete, she is also a fantastic individual and her result is the combination of many years of hard work from herself and her coach, Lyall McCarthy.”
That longer-term partnership, based at a national training centre in Canberra is the sort of stability Scott is trying to replicate for all the Olympic crews.
“The stable quality of coaching and daily training environment has certainly helped Kim, but there was not an athlete in the team who trains harder and is more determined than Kim Brennan,” Scott said.
“Now in the future with an opportunity to have a better-quality training environment and more stability and certainty for athletes, combined with good support structures will certainly lead to better results.”
Gina Rinehart at a beach volleyball match at the Rio Olympic games.
Courtesy of The Australian