WAIS scholarship athlete Rhys Grant has sensationally qualified Australia’s boat for the men’s single scull at the Rio Olympic Games and virtually guaranteed that he fills that spot after finishing second in the event at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland overnight.
Grant powered home in a time of 6:49.070 to finish second, inside the top three required to earn qualification for Rio.
The result sets up a likely Olympic debut for Grant, who at 29 has put together the most consistent 12 months of training of his seasoned career, which earned him the single scull seat for the Regatta of Death after a win at the Australian Rowing Championships in Penrith last summer.
The man known as Mr President in rowing circles, said the fact he had put his name forward for Olympic selection was yet to sink in.
"I can’t believe I qualified. The guys were coming really hard for me. But my parents are here to cheer me on and words cannot express how I feel right now,” he said post race.
Knowing that a top three spot would give him his Olympic dream, Grant sat fourth over the opening 500m before turning up the pace on the field in the second split to hit the lead and establish a break that would ensure four crews would race for the finish line.
Belgian Hannes Obreno would reel the West Australian in over the closing stages, but Grant had too much in the tank for the crews from Hungary and Denmark and held on to record a famous result.
Grant who has been based in Perth, training with WAIS coach Rhett Ayliffe over the past four years, recorded over 40 strokes per/minute for the final 150m, covering over 5m per second on average to ensure he wouldn’t be caught and at risk of missing the podium.
Grant’s row in the final, bettered his semi-final effort of 7:01.940 by over 12 seconds, with the same three place-getters from his semi, filling the podium in the final.
There was disappointment however for WAIS scholarship athlete Alex Hagan and the Australian women's eight. Needing a top two finish to qualify the boat for Rio, the Aussies could only manage third and have missed Olympic representation.
Australia's men's eight crew, similarly fell short of qualification after finishing fourth in their final, meaning Australia has failed to send a men's eight crew to the Olympic Games for the first time since 1948. The men's eight crew included Western Australian Josh Hicks.