THE EXCLUSION of reserve rower Emma McCarthy from the competition’s headquarters outside London has emerged as another bone of contention for the Australian women’s eight on the eve of its Olympic final on Thursday.
As the eight’s impressive fast-tracked campaign to the London Games reaches its climax, the women’s underlying resentment with rowing officialdom has been publicly put to one side but crew remains disenchanted that five male reserves have been accredited in the rowing village with McCarthy left out.
The 25-year-old Bundaberg rower is rooming in a bed and breakfast near the course at Eton Dorney with the team’s boatman, a physiotherapist and two soft tissue therapists. She cannot train on the water with the Australian team nor enter the athletes area at the course. When the Olympic regatta is completed on Saturday the rest of the team will prepare to move to the Games village in London but McCarthy will be expected to fly home or fund her own accomodation.
Rowing’s section manager Ray Ebert conceded McCarthy was ‘‘very disappointed’’ when she learned at the Games training camp in Italy that she had been excluded from the team. ‘‘It’s a terrible numbers game,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s about prioritising how crews are going to go and where the biggest risk of injuries are and those lay with the lightweight men and the other male crews.
‘‘It was a decision taken after meetings with all the coaches and the chief executive. The unlucky sixth person was Emma. We have been bringing her down to the house where the rowers meet up for some training sessions and we’ve got her tickets in the grandstand every day. To put it in perspective the Germans also have five alternates but they have nine reserves living outside the village.’’
The 2012 Games mark the first Olympics where ‘alternates’ have been granted village accreditation on a pro rata basis. The Australian rowing team had prepared for four reserves places but gained an extra accreditation for a reserve when the eight qualified in Lucerne. That the place was given to a fifth male has angered some members of the crew and its supporters.
Ebert conceded he had had a number of ‘‘lengthy discussions’’ with McCarthy’s father Bruce.
‘‘He wasn’t happy about his daughter’s circumstances and we spoke about it three nights ago and again last night,’’ Ebert said. ‘‘I think he’s more comfortable with the situation now.’’
Ebert said he remained hopeful the squad would not need to call upon any reserves.The only official women reserves in the team are already rowing with Sally Kehoe and Pheobe Stanley from the women’s eight selected as stand-ins for the sweep and scull events respectively. In that event McCarthy, primarily a bowside oarswoman, would be called up into the eight.
‘‘It’s unfortunate for Emma,’’ conceded Rowing Australia boss Andrew Dee. ‘‘But you have to have athletes who can cover off several positions. So she doesn’t have any accreditation and she’s just on call if there’s an injury. It’s very cutthroat.’’
On the Rowing Australia official website McCarthy lists her career highlight as winning selection into the Australian eight squad for the London games.
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