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Olympic gold medallist receives Australia Day award

Olympic gold medallist receives Australia Day award
Brendan Rees

Ever since Lucy Stephan was a youngster, she set herself “little goals” to become a champion rower, but to actually win gold at the Tokyo Olympic Games “felt like a dream”. 

The 30-year-old of South Melbourne trained between five and six hours a day including a 20km morning run as part of her preparations before competing on the global stage.

She said her gold medal race with the women’s four crew was a feeling she could not describe, particularly during the pandemic which had forced the postponement of the major event.  

“I was having to tell myself probably every 30 seconds like ‘no, it happened, you actually won gold’,” she said.

For her efforts, the star rower was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in this year’s Australia Day honours list for her service to sport as a gold medallist at the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games.

It is a huge achievement for Ms Stephan who grew up as a country kid in Nhill, a town halfway between Melbourne and Adelaide, where the Wimmera River had no water for years.

She learned to row while a boarder at Ballarat Grammar after her interest in the sport was sparked when she attended the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra while on a Grade Six camp.

“Funnily enough when I was at boarding school, Lake Wendouree [in Ballarat] was bone dry, so we used to go to Geelong once a week to row so that’s where I learned to grow and then fell in love with it,” she said.

“I guess it was a space where I found that I belonged, and I could be myself, and that kind of opened up to me why I fell in love with the sport so much,” she told Southbank News.

“I always played sport but for me rowing was a sport where it wasn’t about natural talent or being gifted in terms of playing netball or being a runner.

“I feel like with rowing, it’s more to do with what’s between the ears and how tough you are.”

Ms Stephan, who described her OAM as “very special”, said the Olympics was “definitely a lot of work” and something she was grateful to be a part of.

She said Japan did an “absolutely incredible job” of hosting the Games which was “something that the world needed to bring us all together.”

While sightseeing was off-limits due to the pandemic, she said crossing the line to win gold was one of many “pinch me moments”.

Her success comes after representing Australia with the women’s eight in the Rio 2016 Olympics.

She has also won multiple medals including gold at the World Rowing Cup and World Rowing championship – two events she is now training again for while also assisting in a coaching role at Scotch College, Hawthorn • 

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