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Lucy thankful for her community


“As much as I’m forever thankful for the girls I rowed with up at Penrith, I’m really thankful for the community of Nhill and the community of Ballarat who have helped me get there every step of the way” – Lucy Stephan, right

Incredibly proud Nhill girl’ Lucy Stephan has thanked her community for its support after returning home from the Tokyo Olympic Games with a gold medal.

Hindmarsh Shire Council hosted an event in Stephan’s honour on Thursday last week, enabling attendees to congratula­te the Wimmera’s first Olympic gold medallist on her success.

Stephan’s women’s four rowing team recorded two Olympic-best times at the Tokyo games, holding off a fast-finishing Netherland­s outfit to win the 2000-metre final in a time of six minutes and 15.37 seconds.

The result was part of Australian rowing’s greatest day in Olympic history, with four medals including two gold in the water in Tokyo.

Stephan, 29, addressed a small crowd – to comply with COVID-19 restrictio­ns – at Nhill Memorial Community Centre, sharing snippets of her life from her early days at Nhill to Olympic glory.

She grew up on the family farm at Woorak with her parents Gus and Mandy Stephan and brothers Fred and Oscar, attending kindergart­en, primary school and secondary college at Nhill, until year nine.

She then moved to boarding school in Ballarat, where she learnt how to row.

“For those of you who don’t know, the lake was dry, but the school still offered rowing as a sport,” she said.

“I would get on a bus once a week and go down to Geelong and that’s where I learnt to row.

“I was incredibly lucky. Because I was one of the only people learning to row as a senior, I was put in a boat with three of the top girls.

“The coach said, ‘Sit still while I teach Luce to row’. And then he turned into my coach the following year, which is when I really learnt to fall in love with the sport and discovered this whole other side to me.

“I’m thankful to rowing for helping me become what I have now become, a very outspoken, determined and driven person.”

Stephan also spoke about her days rowing with Melbourne University Boat Club, making her first Australian team, attending the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra and the success that followed.

She spoke about the initial difficulty of moving to Penrith, NSW, which enabled her to continue to row for Australia.

“It was a bit like boarding school, at the start I didn’t want to do that. But obviously, once again, I’m forever thankful for the opportunit­ies that this sport has shown me,” she said.

Stephan also spoke about her path to the 2020 Olympics and how the COVID-19 pandemic had affected her journey.

“There’s definitely been some hard times in my story, but there’s definitely been some really great times – as much as I’m forever thankful for the girls I rowed with up at Penrith, I’m really thankful for the community of Nhill and the community of Ballarat who have helped me get there every step of the way,” she said.

Stephan also expanded on her experience in Tokyo, including her nervous but confident attitude the morning of the final and of course, her team’s victory.

“It was an amazing experience and a lot of people asked how I felt when I crossed the line,” she said.

“It was definitely a sense of relief, but also, definitely a sense of pride.

“It was an amazing day and I’m incredibly proud of myself but also it’s come from a lot of people supporting me to get here.”

Stephan was treated to several questions from audience members who asked everything from whether she enjoyed the Olympic village to what she ate for breakfast the morning of the final.

And of course, the question everyone wants the answer to, are her sights on Paris in three years’ time?

“I definitely still have the fire in my belly, but it’s to see whether I can put that fire somewhere else, and I don’t know that,” Stephan said.

“I think it is really hard being up in Penrith away from my boyfriend and my mum and dad. In the past 10 years I’ve usually come home once a year, for Christmas or Easter.

“It’s tricky, but I do love rowing. There is a little spark there and the fact it’s only three years away also, doesn’t really help draw it the other way.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that if I can sit back and watch the TV and know I couldn’t have made that crew go faster, I feel that’s going to help me to be able to step back.

“It’s knowing if I couldn’t have had a positive impact on it or physically, if my body wasn’t handling it, then I need to step away because all I’m doing is stopping a seat from someone who has the potential to go do what I just did.”

Stephan said she planned to start coaching and bring equality to the sport, not just in terms of athletes and what they achieve, but also in terms of support staff and coaches.

“If you build it, the girls will come and that is my goal,” she said.

Hindmarsh mayor Ron Ismay said he was excited to have an opportunit­y to congratula­te Stephan on her success in Tokyo.

“Lucy is a fantastic role model for the younger generation,” he said.

“Showing that if you put your mind to something and work hard you may just achieve your goal.”

People can view a video of the event on Hindmarsh Shire Council’s Facebook page.

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