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Sally O'Shea on the way - with Rio the target

Nagambie rower getting some local help towards her goal.

CHALPAT SONTI May 15, 2014 3:47am

Nagambie rower Sally O'Shea in action at the Australian Masters Championships recently.


If Nagambie rower Sally O’Shea reaches her ultimate goal in a couple of years time, it would surely rank as one of the more unusual sport stories.

For 18 months ago she acted on a hunch that could see her at the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro.

A gifted rower as a youngster — she won Head of the Schoolgirls regatta when at Sacred Heart College in Geelong — she then gave the game away due to a broken arm. It was so badly damaged it took her two years to regain full use.

O’Shea, 30, showed little inclination to return until she moved to Nagambie to work in the thoroughbred breeding industry.

‘‘I was really unfit and was working here (Basinghall Farm) feeling really unfit then I thought ‘I’m living right next to Lake Nagambie, why wouldn’t I be rowing’,’’ she said.

‘‘I wandered down one Sunday — every Sunday Nagambie Rowing Club has a learn-to-row program — I joined in a bit and it’s gone from twice a week and having fun to an obsession that’s taken over my life.’’

But in a good way, of course. O’Shea has just returned from the Australian Masters Championships where she won two gold, a silver and got a fourth place as well. That followed the national championships with Latrobe University where she won a bronze in the four and finished fourth in the B final in a pair that couldn’t train together.

Rowing, for all its profile every four years in the Olympics, is essentially a participant-funded sport. And here O’Shea has had some local heavy hitters of the horse world offering their help.

Her employers Tas and Julie Rielley got together the likes of Bill and Joni Hodder, Gerry Ryan, Ian and Rosie Metherall, Ron and Cheryl Gower, Adam Sangster, Bob Scarborough, Greg Murphy and Rick Jamieson to buy her a sculling boat, which would normally set someone back about $12 000.

‘‘That’s been fantastic,’’ O’Shea said.

‘‘Before that I was training in a club boat and it was a case of grab what you could if you were lucky.’’

Her coach is Nagambie Olympian Neil Lodding and she is also grateful for the help she has received from Pat McNamara. All the local support makes the 5am training worthwhile.

O’Shea’s results this season are even better than they appear, as she went into it with a work injury.

‘‘A horse got me and I hurt my knee,’’ she said.

‘‘I spent 12 weeks on the couch not able to move and I jumped back in a boat for the first time at the Victorian Sprint Championships.

‘‘I thought I might as well have a go with no training and I won that which was really cool.’’

She has also rowed in long-distance events too, a particularly interesting one was the Head of the Yarra, an 8.6km event that her crew won.

‘‘We had another boat row into us about 600m in and I copped an oar. We still managed to win, at the time I think it was the adrenalin which kept me going. I love to row and I don’t like to come second.

‘‘When I got out at the end I actually thought I had broken ribs and for the next week I continued to train.

‘‘My arm kept swelling and I thought something was wrong but it was probably just sore muscles. By the end of the next week I was like ‘I probably should go to a doctor’ and he told me I’d broken my arm.’’

Hopefully the worst of her injuries are behind her as she trains in the off-season for the Victorian Institue of Sport time trials in September. That is the first step to her ultimate goal - the 2016 Olympics.

‘‘I would love to make it to Rio,’’ O’Shea said. ‘‘I’ll cross my fingers and push like anything.’’

The NSW and national championships next year are her other two targets. ‘‘You really have to perform well there to get an invite to the (Olympic) trials.’’

With world champion Kim Crowe looking to have a mortgage on the single sculling berth, O’Shea is realistic.

‘‘I would take absolutely any seat in any boat given the chance,’’ she said.

‘‘I can scull and sweep and I figure by being able to do both and hopefully performing in the next batch of time trials I’m aiming to open up an opportunity for myself.’’

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