They’ve almost completed mission impossible – and Sarah Cook says it’s time to take risks in the pursuit of Australia’s most unexpected medal of the Olympic Games.
The women’s eight rowing team will have a chance to prove all of its doubters wrong when it races in the final tonight at 9.30pm (Canberra time).
Just seven months ago Rowing Australia refused to enter the team into Olympic qualification.
But after a protest and defiant rally, the women’s eight was finally given the chance it needed.
Now it is on the verge of winning a medal, with Canberra’s Cook declaring the “motley crew” of the Olympics has one more surprise left for its competitors.
“It’s definitely a relief to get through,” Cook told The Canberra Times.
“I feel like we can just do anything from here on in, for us it has just been about achieving the impossible over and over again.
“By no means are we at the bottom of the pile. I feel like we have a real shot, we can take some risks and step it up another gear.”
Australia finished third behind the Netherlands and Romania to book its place in the final.
Its time wasn’t on medal pace, but Cook insisted the team was ready to burst out of its bubble to cause a major boilover.
The women’s eight has been notorious for controversy.
First there was the ‘lay-down Sally’ incident when Sally Robbins stopped rowing in the final of the event at the Athens Olympics in 2004.
With the London Olympics looming, Rowing Australia decided there wasn’t enough talent to fill the boat to compete at Eton Dorney.
Now it’s a team of misfits and rejects which has continually defied the odds on its Olympic journey.
“The job isn’t done yet . . . we just stayed in our bubble [in the semi-final] and executed our plan . . . the final is about stepping it up a notch, throwing a few surprises and really racing for that medal,” Cook said.
“It’s really exciting that we’ve ticked the boxes we’ve wanted . . . we haven’t put it all out on the course yet. We’ve definitely got another gear to go, we’ll put it out there when it matters and see what we get back.”
Cook also competed at the Beijing Olympics in the double, but she didn’t make the final with partner Kim Crow.
Should the women’s eight win a medal, it creates a significant dilemma for Cook.
She revealed last week she had planned to take time away from rowing after the London Olympics before returning for another campaign in Rio in 2016.
Her comeback would have been driven by the desire for an Olympic medal.
“If I do that now . . . if I was to come back it would be to pursue that goal of a medal and if I do it now would I still have that drive,” Cook said.
“If I won an Olympic medal now, it would be about thinking what I want to achieve. It’s the ideal scenario, but whether I would have the drive [for a comeback] is a question I can’t answer until I’m faced with it. I’m just excited because what this squad has done is amazing.”
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