The stage is set for a memorable World Rowing Championships in New Zealand, with Warrnambool exports Kathryn Ross and Tommy Bertrand soaking up the buzz.
Bertrand said there was plenty of hype surrounding the week-long titles, which will start tomorrow at Lake Karapiro, Waikato.
“New Zealand have really turned it on,” he said.
“All the racing is going to be televised live … and they’ve sold 60,000 tickets for the week.
“It’s pretty exciting because we don’t often get to race in front of a crowd.”
While Ross is teaming up with trunk and arms double-scull partner Grant Bailey, Bertrand is part of the Australian lightweight eight crew.
“This is my fifth world championships and my second in seniors,” he said.
“When you first show up (to the world championships) and see all the nations and you see the set-up of it, you get really nervous.
“But because I’ve been here before I know what to expect.
“You still get a few butterflies in the stomach but you know what’s coming.”
With only five countries in the lightweight eight, Australia is guaranteed to make next Sunday’s final.
Bertrand, 23, nominated reigning world champion and world cup titleholder Italy as the boat to beat.
He said he believed his crew was a genuine medal chance.
“We’ve jelled really well,” he said.
“When we’re in the boat, we’re switched on but when we’re outside the boat we can switch off and have a bit of fun.
“We enjoy each other’s company.”
The combined Australian team — which arrived in New Zealand on Tuesday — used a training camp in Penrith as preparation for the world titles.
“We just focused on rowing and a little bit of cross training,” Ross said of herself and Bailey.
“It’s still relatively early days for us because Grant’s still learning all the ropes and getting the technique under wraps. We haven’t really put any expectations on ourselves. We just want to go out there and see what we can do.”
This year’sworld championships will be Ross’ second.
She made her debut in 2007 in Germany, where she and former partner John Maclean claimed silver.
The 29-year-old nominated reigning world champion Ukraine as the toughest competition this year and also tipped France to be strong.
The Beijing Paralympic silver medallist expected to find out her and Bailey’s opponents for Monday’s heat either today or tomorrow.
“Then we can work out some strategies,” she said.
“The top two from each heat go straight through to the final and the rest go into the repechage.”
Ross would love nothing more than to add to her huge medal and trophy collection while in New Zealand.
“We’re honoured to be here representing Australia and Grant and I are very excited,” she said yesterday.
“Hopefully we do the best we can and bring something shiny home.”