Leaving competitors in their wake

Department of Defence

ADF rowers put on an ‘oarsome’ performance at the 2024 Australian Masters Rowing Championships, leaving competitors in their wake.

The team, comprising 19 ADF members and one US Marine, was the largest in five years and finished the event – at Lake Barrington from May 8-11 – with two gold, two silver and six bronze medals.

Raised in Hobart, Air Force Corporal Sarah Leon had the home-water advantage and won gold in the lightweight women’s A single scull, despite only training on a rowing machine in the lead-up.

“I had a nice first five strokes and then at the 100-metre mark I looked around at the other girls and I was a fair way ahead and I was like, ‘oh, I’ve gone out too quick’,” Corporal Leon said.

“I slowed down a bit and got back with the pack, but the last 250 metres I turned on the legs and brought it home. One of the guys let me know I’d beaten the other girl by less than a second for gold.”

She also took bronze in a champions-of-champions doubles race, despite a 53-second handicap, paired with a competitor from her school days.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of ADF Rowing’s formation and its first competition in the masters, also at Lake Barrington, which both occurred in 2009.

Army musician Benjamin Lim took gold in the men’s A coxed four and bronze in men’s A quad, but was most proud of his silver in the lightweight men’s A single scull.

After jumping out to a boat-length lead in the first 250m, he started to fade and fell into third, but was determined not to let the race slip away.

“One of the guys was someone I beat last year, so I managed to step up and put in a big enough sprint to get into silver-medal position with three strokes to go,” Musician Lim said.

The trumpet player from Australian Army Band – Brisbane took his instrument to encourage rowers across the line with the Cavalry Charge bugle call and other tunes.

Rowing in three crews that won bronze, Navy Chief Petty Officer Brianna Murray said ADF performed extremely well despite many of the team never having trained together.

“Considering we’re all scratch crews, we had really good races and came home with a lot of medals, which was exciting,” she said.

Chief Petty Officer Murray enjoys rowing because “it’s a team sport unlike other on-field team sports”, with individual performances contributing to the success of the team.

“As a kid, I was never very good at ball sports; my hand-eye coordination was terrible so rowing became the sport for me,” she said.

“Now that I’m older as well, and after having two kids, rowing is a great low-impact sport where I can get the heart rate up and still really put a lot of strength and power into it.”

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