ALL eyes will be on former Ballarat Grammar rower Lucy Stephan on Monday night.
The 24-year-old will line up as part of the Australian women’s eight rowing squad for the first heat at Rio’s Olympic Games, with the race scheduled for 11.30pm.
The race is a culmination of a whirlwind few weeks for the Nhill product, who was locked in for the world’s sporting pinnacle after a sensational last-minute decision to ban more Russian drug cheats in late July.
Australia initially failed to qualify for the Games but were the first reserve.
Ballarat Grammar rowing director Luke Pougnault said Stephan’s story is one for locals to appreciate.
“I think it’s great for the community to have a local product compete in the best platform in the world,” he said.
“Given the context of how she’s come in, they’re going to be up against it (citing the team’s inclusion on short notice).
“But she’s a tough racer, she’s determined. She’ll give it everything she’s got.
“It’s been a seven or eight year effort (to get to this point). I think it’s a great opportunity and they’ll do themselves proud.”
Stephan attended Ballarat Grammar as a boarder and was part of a winning Head of the Lake crew in 2009.
Following her success in the age-capped events, she was forced to work hard in January and February of this year to earn a place in the senior national squad at the national trials.
In an interview with The Wimmera Mail Times in July, Stephan’s parents Gus and Mandy said at first, rowing was never on the agenda for the family.
“I’m a netballer and my husband was involved in football – rowing wasn’t something we knew about, plus there was never any water anyway,” she said.
“Being from Nhill, she had to be determined.
“She has always shown resilience – we as family are very resilient and I tried to teach my children that it was important not to give up.”
Mrs Stephan said she never thought her daughter would grow up to be an Olympic rower, said paid tribute to her work ethic.
“School rowing is completely different to the elite rowing she is now doing,” she said.
“It involves a lot of hard work and Lucy has had to make lots of tough choices over the years.
“But they were choices she had to make if she was going to succeed and we’ve supported her through that process.”