WHEN Hockeyroo Jade Warrender ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament a month ago it appeared Orange would be without a representative at the London Olympic Games.
But we have one.
He just won’t be wearing the green and gold.
Kinross Wolaroi School’s rowing coach Joe Donnelly will this week travel to London - via Hanoi - in his role as coach of the Vietnamese rowing team.
The Vietnamese women’s lightweight double scull earned a berth for the games via a qualifying regatta in Korea, and will compete in heats on Sunday, July 29.
They will be the first, and only, Vietnamese crew to compete at the Olympic Games.
Donnelly became associated with the Vietnamese rowing program in mid-2009, having travelled to the country with his wife for many years.
The teacher has a rich rowing background, having coxed crews at St Ignatius College in his school days and then again at Sydney University.
The highlight of his days in the boat was representing Australia at world championships in 1974 and 1975.
Since then, his involvement with the sport has been on the coaching side.
Donnelly is under no illusions as to the size of the task facing his two-person crew at the Eton College Rowing Centre in a month’s time.
“Having looked at the competition at the Olympics we are up against the top 17 double sculls in the world,” Donnelly said.
“We need to find 10 seconds in order to make the semi-finals.
“We are certainly going to the Olympics as the underdogs and we will be happy to knock over as many tall poppies as we can along the way.”
But he has cause for optimism.
In the Asian Cup, held three weeks ago, the Vietnamese team won five gold medals, four silver and three bronze.
The women’s double scull won both the heavyweight and lightweight categories.
Despite stark funding differences between the Australian and Vietnamese rowing programs, Donnelly believes there is potential for rapid improvement among the Vietnamese crews.
“The Institute of Sport in Australia and the Institute of Sport in Hanoi [where the rowers train] are light years apart,” Donnelly said.
“There’s very ordinary accommodation, restricted diets because of funding issues and hand-me-down boats from China which are all stored outdoors.
“The athletes come from other sporting backgrounds and are certainly good potential lightweight athletes.”