2020 VISION: Saunders setting sights on Tokyo Olympics
ROWING: Former Maclean rowing sensation Leah Saunders has her sights set on the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and her Australian eights team hopes to qualify at the 2019 World Rowing Championships in Austria next week.
Saunders' team have their work cut out for them, needing a top five finish to qualify for the Japan Olympics while others can get through with top eight, nine or even top 11 results in Linz-Ottensheim between August 25 and September 1.
But they look poised to earn themselves another medal after taking gold at the World Cup 2 in Poland back in June and silver at World Cup 3 in Holland and Leah's mother Keryn Saunders said it couldn't be more deserved.
"It's very exciting, they're all keyed up after a training camp in Italy.
"They've been building towards this with two world cup wins and the overall series with Australia,” Keryn said.
"This is a huge deal, she's always worked her way up to the next goal. She always aims to keep improving and reaching the next level and now she can go on to the Olympics.
"She achieves individually but she thrives as part of a team.”
Keryn coaches rowing herself and is incredibly excited to see a local product, let alone her own daughter, doing what she is.
"It's a massive thing to come from Lower Clarence rowing to go on to the Sydney Rowing Club and now she's part of a very strong Australian team,” she said.
Rowing Australia performance director Bernard Savage spoke on the recent success and the amazing opportunity that is being presented.
"We are confident that as a team we can build on our recent successes at the FISA International Para-Rowing Regatta and the World Rowing Cups,” he said.
"While this year's World Rowing Championships has an added significance to it due to the Olympic and Paralympic qualification opportunities, we're in Austria to perform on the world stage and deliver podium finishes for Australia.”
Saunders trains with the Sydney Rowing Club and will be joined by Jacinta Edmunds, Bronwyn Cox, Georgina Rowe, Rosemary Popa, Annabelle McIntyre, Jessica Morrison, Molly Goodman and coxswain James Rook as they return to the waters in Europe.
Australia has entries in 12 of the 14 Olympic boat classes and two of the four Paralympic boat classes, with crews not only looking to make podium finishes at the pinnacle rowing event of the year, but also ensure they finish in a required qualifying spot to secure Australia a boat berth at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics or Paralympic Games.
In addition to the above boats, Australia will compete in the non-Olympic/Paralympic boat classes of the PR2 Women's Single Scull, PR3 Men's Pair and the Lightweight Men's and Women's Single Sculls.
The Olympic boat classes Australia will compete in will be the Men's and Women's Pairs, Fours, Eights, Lightweight Double Sculls, Double Sculls and Quadruple Sculls.
There will also be two separate Paralympic boat classes competing.
While Australia will aim to qualify boats at the event, athletes will only be selected for qualified boats in 2020.