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Rowing and Feminism. Chatting to Olympic Rower Lucy Stephan


We had a chat to now Olympian rower Lucy Stephan in light of last week's decision to send the Australian Women's Eight Rowing Team to Rio Olympics. Rowing is especially close to the Y's heart with the Y Rowing Club that has been providing rowing opportunities for women since 1910.


Name: Lucy Stephan

Age: 24

Nickname(s): Luce, Loosey and looch, Lu and LuLu

Favourite food:  Pizza, muesli with yogurt, milk and fruit and Mexican food.

Favourite movie: The Castle

Role Model: Sarah Tait

The Y: How did you find out you were going to the 2016 Rio Olympics?

Lucy: It was always a possibility due to the fact the Russians had already been removed from the athletics. For my own peace of mind, I just believed it would never happen. So, I didn’t get hurt again after missing out on qualification by 2 seconds in May.

It all really came to light when we received an email from Rowing Australia saying that the IOC (International Olympic Committee) was going to make the decision whether or not to remove all Russian athletes. It then became the waiting game. We decided as a crew for everyone to meet in Melbourne and start training on the off chance it did happen. On Sunday night the IOC decided they would leave it up to the individual sport federations to remove the Russian’s from their sport. At 8.15pm on Tuesday night we were waiting on a group phone call to find out the verdict from FISA, who is the head of all rowing rules and regulations. At 9.15pm we found out that the Russians had been band due to doping a we were going to RIO!!


The Y: What was your reaction to finding out?

Lucy: I couldn’t believe it, it was pure happiness! My dreams of going to the games had come true. I almost fell of my chair and was just saying oh my god over and over again.


The Y: How did you start rowing?

Lucy: I was sent to boarding school at the start of year 10. I began rowing at the end of year 10 through the school program at Ballarat Grammar. At the time there was no water on lake Wendouree so we would travel to Geelong once a week to row there on the river.


The Y: Tell us about what a day in the life of Lucy looks like.

Lucy: I wake up around 6am have a small breakfast and then ride my bike to training. Right now we are training on the Yarra out of the Wesley Boat house. We row then I ride home and have a second breakfast. Then I usually sit down do some uni work or have a nap, depending on how tired I am. Then it's time for lunch. After lunch, I will head to the Victorian Institute of Sport to do our second and third training session. This is usually gym, standard lifts, core and stretching. Then into the heat tent for an hour on the spin bike. This is a tent which has the temperature set to about 33 degrees in order to climatise us to Rio weather. I then ride home have dinner and relax by watching TV or something similar to wind down.


The Y: Apart from being a superstar rower, what do you do with yourself?

Lucy: Aside from rowing, I am a part-time university student online.  Currently I am studying a Bachelor of Arts at Deakin University. I also work for a sportswear clothing labeled called 776BC. I usually around 3 days a week, but due to training they have given me a couple of weeks off.


The Y: Would you call yourself a feminist?

Lucy: I would have to say yes. I believe that all people should have the same opportunities and rights. I think it is important to be a strong woman and to stand up for what you believe in. Rowing is a very male dominated sport. 


The Y: Do you feel like women are properly represented at an Olympic level?

Lucy: This year yes! After our 8+ qualified for the 1st time ever we had more women on the Australian Olympic team than men! Which is a huge win for Women in Sport. It made getting the news that I was going to Rio that much sweeter.

Rowing is a very male dominated sport. Women didn’t compete at the games until the 1980’s. Still to this day there are more spots at the Olympics for men in rowing than women. FISA and the IOC are trying to change this in the next four years to make it even. Which is great and should definitetly happen, as we put in just as much time and effort as the men. While these problems are getting better for women in rowing I think it is important for them to keep improving and for this to happen Women need to stand up for themselves and not feel sorry for themselves and complain but be the change they want to be. If people think women don’t train as hard as the men, then train harder to prove your point.


The Y: Who is your role model and why?

Lucy: Sarah Tait is my role model because she backed herself in everything she did. She had set back early in her career but that never held her back. Sarah never dwelled on the past, but just tried to better herself every chance she got. She was quiet and would only say something if it really needed to be said. She lead by doing, which I think is really hard to do. I was one of the few young girls that got to row the pair with her before she got too sick. It was a truly amazing experience that I will hold with me for the rest of my life.

She has taught me you don't have to be one person. I used to think as soon as I have children I would stop rowing, but after seeing her be a mother to her children I don't believe that anymore. For the rest of her children's lives they will be able to talk to any person and hear stories of the amazing women Sarah Tait was. She was one of the toughest people I will ever meet and I feel lucky I have had the opportunity to know her and be able to say she is a role model of mine.


The Y: Do you have a good luck charm?

Lucy: Not really, I used to have a lucky sports bra but its kinda in pieces right now. I try not to have one incase one day I forget to put it in my bag or something. Though I did think I race extra well when I don’t wear socks in the boat, which is pretty foul but it is what it is!


The Y: What’s your advice to anyone wanting to be an Olympian?

Lucy: Don’t give up. You never know what can happen. I’m living proof of that. I have worked extremely hard for this and sometimes things don’t go your way. My advice would be to say "good" when things don't go your way, because at the end of the day you will become a stronger person and a better person because of that set back. 


We wish Lucy and the Women's Eight team the best of luck in the upcoming Rio Olympics, GO FOR GOLD GIRLS!


Part of the YWCA's initiatives is the Y Rowing Club. The Y Rowing Club was founded in 1910 to provide rowing opportunities for women and while the Centre now conducts programs for both genders, membership is still open only to women.

The 'Y' has been at the forefront in popularising rowing for women. Its members were the first to represent Australia at World Championships and a Lightweight Four recorded Australian women's first success at international level in 1979.

Located on Melbourne's beautiful Albert Park Lake, Y Rowing provides an opportunity for people of all ages (from teens through to mature age adults) to learn and enjoy rowing in a safe and friendly atmosphere and at an affordable price.

Contrary to popular opinion you don't need to be exceptionally strong, or fit, to learn to row. That's why so many people are taking up the sport and thoroughly enjoying themselves while getting fit along the way.


Want to give it a try or have a lesson? The Club has monthly “Come and Try” Sessions? Check out the Y Rowing Centre website for details!