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Australian eights Rio hopes sunk

Sport

Australia won’t have a men’s eight at the Olympics for the first time since 1948 after failing to qualify for Rio at the final rowing regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland.

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The Australians needed a top two finish at the “Regatta of Death” but finished a distant fourth in the final of the blue riband event.

In a disappointing day only men’s single sculler Rhys Grant was able to qualify for Rio, with the Australian women’s eight also missing out.

Australia has a proud history in the men’s eight, making the start line at each Olympics since London in 1948 and winning six medals.

They went into the final on the Rotsee lake with high hopes after finishing second in an earlier race-off for lanes.

But in a top-class field the Australians couldn’t match the might of crews from the USA and Poland, with Italy third.

Australia got off to a strong start, sitting second behind Poland, but their challenge faded with the other crews powering home in a tight finish.

Italy missed a Rio berth by less than half a second with the Australians more than three seconds further back.

The Australian women’s eight also needed a top two finish but placed third, trailing in behind clear front-runners Romania and the Netherlands.

Grant had to place in the top three in the men’s single scull to book a Rio berth.

The West Australian got off to a sluggish start to sit fourth early on but surged to take the lead at the 1000m mark.

Belgium’s Hannes Obreno, who won the semi-final, then moved ahead and that was how the duo finished, with Hungary third.

It means Australia has only qualified eight boats with 20 rowers for Rio, compared to 13 boats and 46 rowers at the 2012 Olympics in London.

-AAP

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