Aussie rowing crews in winning Games start

Australia enjoyed Olympic rowing heats wins in the four races on the Sea Forest Waterway course.
Australia enjoyed Olympic rowing heats wins in the four races on the Sea Forest Waterway course.

Australian crews have thrown down the gauntlet to their Olympic rowing rivals, winning four of the six heats they contested on day two in Tokyo.

While crews in the women's and men's coxless pair and both coxless four boats impressed, Australia eights failed to fire on the Sea Forest Waterway course with both crews forced into repechage rounds.

The eights' preparations may have hit a snag when their race was suddenly rescheduled from Sunday to Saturday and all of Monday's racing cancelled with poor weather because of looming typhoon.

Jessica Morrison and Annabelle McIntyre ticked off their first Olympic goals, winning both their coxless pair and coxless four heat races as they attempt a rare medal double.

The duo comfortably won their pair heat over defending Olympic champion Briton Helen Glover and new partner Polly Swann, and backed up two hours later to join with Rosie Popa and Lucy Stephan to take out their fours race.

While Morrison and McIntyre cruised to a win in the pair to book a semi-final berth, New Zealand's world champions Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler laid down the marker with the fastest heat time.

Glover retired after winning pair gold in both London and Rio but after having three children, including twins last year, took advantage of the one-year delay to the Tokyo Games and won selection for a third Olympics.

With the women's coxless four event returning to the Games schedule for the first time in almost 30 years, the Australians held off the fast-finishing Irish to post an Olympic best time and move directly into the medal race.

Popa said it was reassuring to see they were at world pace after a two-year absence from international racing.

"We've been waiting for such a long time and it's so exciting that we can again race against the best countries in the world and the best crews in the world," Popa said.

"I think as racers, this is what we have been waiting for so it's time for us to really execute what we have been doing and have fun doing it."

Looking to improve on their Rio Olympic silver medal and regain Australia's Oarsome Foursome status, the men's coxless four crew looked sharp in their heat, taking down the USA in the fastest time of the day.

Great Britain, who have dominated the Olympic event in winning every gold medal since Sydney 2000, won the other heat.

Australia's men's pair Joshua Hicks and Sam Hardy also stormed to victory, beating crews from Italy and New Zealand to earn a semi-final spot.

Hardy was happy with the way they controlled the race from start to finish.

"I thought we got into a good rhythm and took control of the race," Hardy said.

"It was a good way to start our Olympic campaign."

Only the winning boat in the hotly contested eights races advanced directly to the final with the rest contesting the repechage on Wednesday.

World champions Germany lived up to their top billing, beating the USA, while the Australian men were a distant fourth.

In the women's race, Australia, who finished second at the world titles, disappointed, trailing the USA and Romania home in last spot.

Australian Associated Press