After calling the shots to win gold in Tokyo, Lucy Stephan tells senior correspondent Mike Osborne how she plans to steer the women’s four to a second victory in Paris.
With the “guts and mongrel” of rowing in the eight behind her, world champion Lucy Stephan is hoping her key role in the coxless four will deliver a second Olympic gold medal in Paris next year.
Stephan’s first Olympic outing at Rio 2016 was a learning experience in an unsuccessful eight. But having tasted victory in the coxless four at the Covid-delayed Tokyo Games, Stephan is hungry for more.
“Hopefully this will be my third and every Olympics is different,” says Stephan, who has also won world championships in the four in 2017 and 2019.
“My first Olympics was in the eight after the Russians got disqualified and Australia got the late call up. But we didn’t have the time to prepare properly.
“The following Olympics was Covid affected and despite all those issues we narrowly won the gold in the four.
“Who knows what this one will hold, but hopefully it’s another gold medal.”
Stephan, 31, says the eight is faster with “more guts and mongrel”, but she prefers the tighter bonds and tactical rowing in the coxless four.
“In the four you have to take on those jobs that the coxswain does in the eight,” she says.
“I sit in the stroke seat and steer. My foot is on the rudder moving it side to side to steer the boat.
“The bow seat makes the technique call and tells us what to do.
“It’s not as fast as the eight but it feels lighter and brighter.
“And there are only four of us, so we have a special bond and we all have our jobs to do.”
In Tokyo Stephan had a different job to what she hopes to do in Paris.
In 2021 at the Covid delayed Games she was in the bow seat, setting the right pace for the team of Annabelle McIntyre, Rosemary Popa and Jessica Morrison to win gold by just 0.34 seconds ahead of the fast-closing Dutch team.
Now with her current crew of Giorgia Patten and two world champion teammates in Katrina Werry and Sarah Hawe, Stephan is happy sitting in the stroke seat.
“You definitely have a seat you try to gravitate towards but I try to gravitate to more seats – usually bow or stroke,” she says.
“If I can be the best bow seat in the world, amazing.
“If I can be the best stroke seat in the world, amazing.
“Then the selectors just have to figure out where to put me.”
But first comes the complicated process of qualifying for Paris.
“In rowing we qualify the boat at the world championships in a month’s time. We have to come top eight to qualify the boat for Australia,” Stephan explains.
“Then we have trials in February and March next year and that’s when a team gets selected into the boat for the World Cup events.
“Rowing Australia then puts forward the crew to the Australian Olympic Committee after the World Cup events and we find out officially who is in the boat around May next year.”
It’s a complicated and challenging process but Stephan is confident her current crew are building towards something big in Paris.
“We’ve already had some good results overseas and I reckon we can get there,” she says.
Michael Osborne has been a journalist for more than four decades including 35 years with the national news agency Australian Associated Press, rising from junior reporter to Editor.
He was AAP Editor for 11 years and served four years as Head of Sport and Racing. He was also posted to London and Beijing as AAP’s Bureau Chief and Foreign Correspondent.