They’ve done it again.
Using second-hand equipment and training out of someone else’s shed, St Augustine’s coxed fours rowing crew has been selected as the Australian rowing crew to compete in the 2023 U/19 World Rowing Championships at Paris in August.
Following their win in the Australian titles at Champion Lakes in Perth, Doogal McKenzie, Tane Potts and Oscar St Pierre – who have rowed together since Year 8 – will team with the returning Joe Lynch and Ryder Taylor to defend the world title won by St Augustine’s at Varese, Italy in 2022.
The crew is again coached by Judith Ungemach who following the success of St Augustine’s rowing program was named Pathways Coach of the Year by Rowing Australia.
The St Augustine’s program is very small compared to better-funded rowing schools. Ungemach says that was part of the appeal for her and fellow coach and husband Matthias.
“Matt and I were the same. We tried to make a change. We didn’t have the desire to go to a school which is already successful. When we started with St Augustine’s [in 2011] they were nowhere. And we just wanted to get something out of a school which didn’t even have a shed. We still don’t have a shed.
“So it’s a big effort but I think it’s worth it. And I think it’s good for the kids to learn to work. To not win because they have the best materials and everything is spoon-fed at the boarding school. It’s important to try and do your best when you don’t have everything given,” Ungemach says.
If nothing else the boys learn discipline. They train every day. They’re on the water by 4:30am. There are strength sessions in the gym. Four of the boys are studying for their Year 12 Certificate. Ryder, the cox, is in year nine.
“They have to be very organised and disciplined to do it,” Ungemach says. “As a coach, you can only give them pointers about what to do. But they have to do the work. They have to go out of their comfort zone. Because it not only muscles that hurt, the lungs are burning, and you do not feel alright! [laughs].
“So not everyone wants to go that way. But at the end, if you win, the recovery goes very quick and it’s all worth it.”
Ungemach would know. She won gold in the eights for East Germany in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games and bronze in Barcelona in 1992 for Germany. She was also world champion in coxed pairs in 1988.
To support the boys in their defence of the world title, raffle tickets are on sale at: https://www.trybooking.com/CIKSI.