World champions cop Olympic setback
11 May 2012
Australia's world champion quad sculls boat has been hit by a worrying injury drama which has the potential to derail their London Olympic campaign.
Stroke Dan Noonan has been forced off the water due to a rib stress reaction and is in serious danger of missing both key World Cup preparation regattas before the London Games.
With the Australian rowing team due to fly out to Europe next week, Noonan is facing six weeks out of competition and has been ruled out of World Cup 2 in Switzerland from May 25-27.
Quad sculls coach John Driessen is hopeful the 32-year-old plumber can return in time for the World Cup 3 regatta in Munich from June 15-17 - six weeks before Olympic competition - but admits he's racing the clock.
"We just need to manage him and see," Driessen told AAP.
"Hopefully, if everything goes really well, he'll be ready to race at the third World Cup.
"If we push him too hard or make a mistake, that will be difficult."
The boat of Noonan, Chris Morgan, Karsten Forsterling and James McRae was set to head to Europe as one of Australia's best Olympic medal hopes following their world titles success last year.
Noonan led the quad to a memorable upset gold in Slovenia when they pipped the German favourites on the line after the German No.2 sculler caught a crab.
After finishing a gut-wrenching fourth at the Beijing Olympics, following a world's best time in their heat, the 2011 gold was the third straight medal finish at the world titles - behind a silver in 2009 and bronze in 2010.
Driessen admitted Noonan's setback posed a big challenge for his crew, which has conscripted Queensland single sculler Jared Bidwell to sit in the stroke seat in the meantime.
"Dan's been the stroke of this boat for four years and quite an integral part of the whole system, but the three blokes behind him are a core group and they present the most power of the boat," Driessen told AAP.
"Hopefully, they will shine and that will make the boat go better."
Bidwell will fly out for Switzerland early this weekend as he attempts to qualify for a spot at the London Games by finishing in the top three in the single sculls at the final Olympics qualification regatta in Lucerne.
Noonan's injury is similar to the rib problem suffered by Beijing Olympic champion Duncan Free who began his return in the men's pair with Tom Larkins at the Sydney International Regatta Centre on Thursday.
Drew Ginn's new-model 'Oarsome Foursome' boat and the defending Olympic champion double sculls duo of David Crawshay and Scott Brennan were the best performed of all Australia's crews at Penrith Lakes.