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Old boys collect Olympic medals of all hues

Hard work and total dedication has paid off for three Old Scotch Olympians.

WORDS: Mr GREG BAKER and Mr DAVID ASHTON

Drew Ginn (’92) and Duncan Free collect Gold in the Mens Coxless Pairs

Congratulations to the three Old Scotch Collegians who won medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games – Drew Ginn (’92) who won rowing gold in the Australian coxless pair, Cameron McKenzie-McHarg (’98), who was a member of the silver medal winning coxless four, and Matt Targett (’03) who won bronze in the pool, as a member of Australia’s 4 x 100m freestyle relay team.

Drew Ginn stamped himself as one of Australia’s greatest-ever Olympians at Beijing by teaming with Duncan Free to win the men’s coxless pair event. At 21, he had won gold as a member of the famous Oarsome Foursome crew in Atlanta in 1996; he missed Sydney 2000 after sustaining a back injury, but came back brilliantly to win gold in the pairs at Athens in 2004.

In the lead-up to Beijing, Drew and Duncan were named as the International Rowing Federation’s crew of the year for 2007. Drew has also been named in the Australian Olympic Committee’s ‘50 of Our Finest’ list, which named 50 athletes who have been among the greatest to have represented Australia at the Olympic Games. He was awarded an Australian Sports Medal in 2000, after having received an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 1997, along with the other members of the Oarsome Foursome crew.

However, Drew’s path to a Beijing gold medal was fraught with difficulty. After competing at the World Cup Regatta in Lucerne, Drew and Duncan realised that they would have to compete at their very best in Beijing to be successful.

Arriving in Beijing, Drew soon found out that the long bus journey to the rowing course was causing him difficulty with his back. He and Duncan arranged alternative accommodation near the course. However, as training continued his back injury gradually worsened.

After a successful heat win, Drew realised that he had only a limited capacity to row over the next few days. Together with their coach, Chris O’Brien, they worked out a training program that involved Drew on an exercise bike and Duncan on an ergometer. Their dominant semi-final performance saw them going into the final as favourites.

In the final, the Canadian pair rowed aggressively and took an early lead. Drew and Duncan kept their heads, and challenged in the middle of the race. They then pulled away to win by a length. For Drew, it was three gold medals from three Olympic Games. For Duncan, it was a gold medal at his fourth attempt.

Drew had surgery on his back shortly after his arrival home and he is well on the way to making a complete recovery.

For Cameron McKenzie-McHarg it was quite a different story. He rowed in the seven seat of Scotch’s winning crew in 1998. Also a talented footballer, Cameron was drafted to Footscray and spent 1999 in their reserves team before losing his place on their list and returning to rowing. He quickly established himself as one of Australia’s leading young oarsmen and gained national selection. However, he was unlucky to miss out on a seat in the Australian crew for the 2004 Athens Olympics. During 2005, Cameron returned to football, playing 17 games that season as a ruckman in the Old Scotch Football Club’s senior team.

In 2006 he teamed up with James Marburg and won the Australian coxless pair championship in Tasmania, ahead of Drew and Duncan. He gained selection in the Australian VIII in 2006 and 2007 and rightly considered that he was in contention for the Beijing Olympics.

However, in February this year the Australian selectors decided to make a number of changes to the Australian VIII and both Cameron and James missed out. They were offered the opportunity to compete in the coxless four event but they had to qualify for the Olympics.

This took them to the World Cup at Lucerne, where they won a gold medal, and to the Olympic qualifying regatta in Posnan, Poland, where they again won a gold medal – and a ticket to Beijing. Their performances stamped the crew as world class.

At the Olympics, they successfully navigated the heats and semi-finals and went into the final a real medal chance. In the final, they led through the 1500 metre mark but were unable to hold off the Great Britain crew who unleashed a sustained sprint over the final 400 metres. However, a silver medal was a dream come true for Cameron after many setbacks.

He has come away from Beijing satisfied that the crew did everything possible to win, and is delighted with a silver medal. Perhaps there may be one more attempt at Olympic glory in London 2012? GS

Scotch’s Olympic medallists

Here is a list of Old Scotch boys who have won Olympic medals:

Rowing

1912 Stockholm - Charles Littlejohn (1906) – silver medal in the Great Britain VIII (Charles was a Rhodes Scholar at New College, Oxford at the time and later coached the Scotch 1st VIII.)

1956 Melbourne - David Boykett (’51) – bronze medal in Australian VIII

1968 Mexico City - David Douglas (’65) – silver medal in Australian VIII

1984 Los Angeles - Sam Patten (’80) – bronze medal in Australian VIII

1996 Atlanta - Drew Ginn – gold medal in Australian coxless IV

2004 Athens - Drew Ginn – gold medal in Australian coxless II

2008 Beijing - Drew Ginn – gold medal in Australian coxless II

2008 Beijing - Cameron McKenzie-McHarg – silver medal in Australian coxless IV

Swimming

1984 Los Angeles - Rob Woodhouse (’82) – bronze medal, 400m individual medley

2000 Sydney - Matt Welsh (’94) – silver medal, 200m backstroke; bronze medal, 4 X 100m medley relay

2008 Beijing - Matt Targett (’03) – bronze medal, 4 X 100m freestyle relay

Diving

2000 Sydney - Dean Pullar (’90) – bronze medal, synchronised springboard diving (with Robert Newbery)

Cameron McKenzie-McHarg with Year 10 rowers Harrison Casey, Andy White, Henry Thomas, Andrew Emmett, Damien Lipshut and Tom Auty.

Updated: Monday 24 June 2013