Olympic medal rush for Australian rowers

Australia have dominated Olympic rowing finals with gold in the men's and women's four in Tokyo.
Australia have dominated Olympic rowing finals with gold in the men's and women's four in Tokyo.

Australia rowers are on top of the world with the men's and women's coxless four crews both winning Olympic gold while the quad scull boats both claimed bronze.

While the rowing team won five Olympics medals in Sydney, gold proved elusive but the Australians had two in the space of 20 minutes in Tokyo.

The men's crew of Alex Purnell, Spencer Turrin, Jack Hargreaves and Alex Hill ended Great Britain's 25-year Olympic dominance of the coxless four, wresting back the mantle of Oarsome Foursome.

But they have to share it with the women, with Rosie Popa, Lucy Stephan, Annabelle McIntyre and Jessica Morrison winning gold in the four's return to the Olympic schedule after almost a 30-year absence.

McIntyre and Morrison were attempting to win a rare rowing medal double and were back on the water for the women's pair semi-final just 90 minutes later but ran out of legs and they missed qualification for the final by just 0.36 seconds.

Purnell said he had been inspired by the feats of the fab four, who shot to fame winning gold at the 1992 and 1996 Games.

"You watched them racing when you're growing up ... you see them win tight races in Atlanta and Barcelona and you just want to be part of that history," Purnell told the Seven Network.

"We're super humbled to be sitting with those legends who have been here before and reached the pinnacle.

"It has been a long time, it is good to be back."

A re-worked finals program due to poor weather at Sea Forest Waterway created a medal rush for the Australians.

The bronze medals won in the men's and women's quad sculls meant Australia had four medals on board in an hour of racing.

The women's coxless four were first in action and held off a late Dutch surge to cross the line in an Olympic best time, with Ireland taking bronze.

Only raced previously in 1992, the women's coxless four replaced the lightweight men's four in this year's program as part of a push for gender equality.

Popa was in tears after the race when asked about her parents, with her mother Sue Chapman-Popa winning Olympic bronze in 1984 in the defunct coxed four and her father, Ion Popa, also a bronze medallist in the men's eight at the same Games.

"They'd be so proud, just so happy for us," the 29-year-old said.

"Our fours have been so brave - we're such a unit and so much trust.

"It was pretty hard conditions today but there was never a doubt in the boat."

In the men's race the Australians led the red-hot field from start to finish and stormed home in another Olympic best.

It was especially sweet for Hill who was part of the Rio crew that won silver in the event.

Romania won silver while third-placed Italy were lucky not to get tangled with the Brits, who veered out of their lane as they finished fourth.

In the men's quad scull, the crew of Caleb Antill, Jack Cleary, Cameron Girdlestone, Luke Letcher finished with a burst to get on the podium behind the Netherlands and Great Britain.

It was Girdlestone's second Olympic medal after winning silver in the event in Rio.

The bronze medal won by the young women's quad scull crew Ria Thompson, Rowena Meredith, Harriet Hudson, Caitlin Cronin was a surprise with the Australians making their way through the repechage round into the final.

Australia has two more medal chances on Friday, with both eights crews advancing through the repechage race on Wednesday into the final.

Australian Associated Press