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Olympic hopefuls headline Sydney's Australian Boat Race lineup

20 October 2015

They've both booked berths to Rio, but before pursuing Olympic glory next year University of Sydney rowers Cameron Girdlestone and Sasha Belonogoff have a local test.

The two Olympic hopefuls will headline the University's bid for victory against the University of Melbourne in the Australian Boat Race this Sunday 25 October.

The annual competition continues a friendly rivalry between the two universities stretching back 155 years, in the style of the famous Oxford versus Cambridge race.

As the Sydney men's eight and women's eight crews prepare to take to the water for the next race along the Yarra River, men's captain Belonogoff said his crew is determined to repeat last year's victory over the home side.

"I haven't seen the Melbourne line-up yet, but I've got a lot of confidence in our crew and the ability of the guys involved," he said.

I think it will take a pretty special Melbourne crew to beat us.
Sasha Belonogoff

Sydney men's crew captain Sasha Belonogoff (right) and Cameron Girdlestone (far left) with the Edmund Barton trophy in 2014. 

As well as winning silver at the Lucerne World Cup in 2014 and bronze in the same regatta this year, Belonogoff recently qualified his boat class for the Rio Olympics alongside Australian teammate James McRae in the men's double scull.

Since graduating with a Bachelor of Applied Science (Exercise and Sports Science) degree this year and relocating to Adelaide for his Olympic training preparations, Belonogoff said he is looking forward to representing his alma mater in the Australian Boat Race for the fifth year running. 

"It's always special when I get into a Sydney Uni eight and we all pull on the Sydney Uni colours. I feel like it's a real brotherhood at the shed, and whenever we jump into an eight together everyone really does rise to the occasion."

Bachelor of Teaching alumnus Cameron Girdlestone, who won a silver medal in the men's quad scull in the 2015 World Rowing Championships and recently qualified the men's quad scull for Rio, joins Belonogoff in the University of Sydney men's crew. 

"This Sunday's race will not only show to Australia but the world how two powerhouse universities do it. Sydney and Melbourne have a strong history of competition and this year we at Sydney Uni will be motivated to go back-to-back for victory.”

Women's crew eye the Bella Guerin trophy

The Sydney women's crew is hungry for a win after missing out to Melbourne last year. The side will be seeking their first victory in the race's modern era with the help of former world champion and Beijing 2008 Olympian, Bachelor of Education student Elizabeth Kell.

"All the girls are training at least four hours each day to ensure we’re in peak physical condition," said women's captain Holly Lawrence, a Bachelor of Science student.

"It's an intense race – at 4.6 kilometres it's also a lot longer than a lot of other races. You've got to make sure you pace yourself, and it's more of a mental battle."

The crews include both graduate and undergraduate rowers, with at least seven members of each crew (nine including coxswain) required to be current students.

In 2009, to mark the 150th anniversary of the first race between the two rowing clubs, the Australian Boat Race became an annual feature on the university sporting calendar, with each city hosting biannually.

Australian Boat Race 2014 Recap

Highlights from the 2014 Australian Boat Race on Sydney Harbour. 

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