Ayers, Altschwager snatch rowing gold at worlds


Nikki Ayers and Jed Altschwager have clinched Australia's first gold medal at the world rowing championship in Belgrade, overcoming a challenging headwind to stamp their class.

The Australian duo's victory in the PR3 mixed double also qualified the boat for the Paralympic Games next year in Paris, where they will now be among the favourites.

The world championships also doubles as qualification for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

In Friday's semi-finals, Erik Horrie also qualified the PR1 men's single scull for the Paralympics, as did Tara Rigney with the women's single scull for the Olympics.

For Ayers and Altschwager, Paris was far from their thoughts as they revelled in their gold-medal triumph.

Their victory caps off a fabulous season that includes wins in World Cup III in Lucerne in July and World Cup II in Varese in June, where they also set a world best time of 7:07.02 seconds.

The conditions were much tougher on Friday, with the pair winning the A final on the Ada Ciganlija Regatta Course in 8:07.07 from the United States (8:15.22) and defending world champions France (8:27.09).

"We knew it was going to be tricky conditions and rough, that you would need to stick to the basics," Altschwager said. "We knew there was going to be some mistakes and errors, and not let that get ahead of us, just get on to the next stroke.

"Our first three strokes weren't too pretty, but we got onto it, started to pull away and went from there."

"It's one of - if not the most - proudest moments in my life," Ayers said. "To share that with Jed, knowing both our families back home are supporting us - and our families have been on that journey with us late at night, watching us and yelling at that TV - it is a super proud moment to be Australian and wear the green and gold.

"Now the gold world champion's medal (is) around our necks."

The women's eight earlier produced a magnificent row to pass Great Britain and win the repechage, booking their ticket for Sunday's A final. The boat is still to qualify for the Olympics but a top-five spot will suffice.

The crew of Hayley Verbunt (cox), Bronwyn Cox, Molly Goodman, Jacqueline Swick, Georgie Rowe, Olympia Aldersey, Georgie Gleeson, Paige Barr and Lily Alton won their repechage in 6:19.66.

"We still have a little bit to work on, but we did a really good job," said Rowe. "We've still got to qualify (the boat for Olympics) but we're going out there with ambitions to win a medal."

Rigney, a bronze medallist at last year's world titles, led for most of her race until she was passed in the final 250m by American Kara Kohler.

Rigney was just relieved she had qualified the scull for the Olympics.

"I'm absolutely stoked," she said. "Even if you are a four-times world champion, a semi-final in the qualifying (regatta) in the Olympic years is the most nerve-wracking thing … everyone wants to be in that A final."

In the PR1 single scull, Erik Horrie was third in his semi to make Sunday's A final and qualify the boat for Paris.

"Medals aren't given out today," said Horrie, 43, a five-times world champion and triple Paralympic silver medallist.

The women's double scull of Amanda Bateman and Laura Gourley came fifth and missed out on a spot in the A final. They must now place in the top five in Sunday's B final to qualify the boat for the Olympics.