London calling

Queanbeyan's Fergus Pragnell will row for a berth in London at this week's Olympic trials in Sydney. Photo: Andrew Johnston
Queanbeyan's Fergus Pragnell will row for a berth in London at this week's Olympic trials in Sydney. Photo: Andrew Johnston

WHEN Rowing Australia put together its initial training squad for the four-man crew to compete at this year’s London Olympics, Fergus Pragnell wasn’t even in the picture.

Four months on and Pragnell now stands on the verge of selection as part of Australia’s new look Oarsome Foursome to compete in London.

Long considered a strong chance to be a part of the national team’s eight-man outfit, Pragnell’s shot at promotion to Australia’s premier boat came about almost by chance back in January.

‘‘[Rowing Australia] had a training camp at the start of the year where they were initially looking at six other guys for spots in the four-man crew,’’ Pragnell said.

‘‘They basically brought me and another guy in just to help out with the training so they could fill out a couple of boats.

‘‘We were initially in the lower ranked crew and then we started going pretty well and beating the top ranked boat and I guess they had to have a bit of a rethink.’’

Over the course of the next week, the 26-year-old will look to secure his ticket to London at Rowing Australia’s final Olympic selection trials in Sydney.

The trials mark the culmination of Pragnell’s 2012 Olympic quest; a journey that began four years ago when the then 22-year-old missed selection for Beijing. Since then, the Queanbeyan local has dedicated himself to the sport, leaving no stone unturned in ensuring his place on the Australian team.

‘‘It definitely means a lot to me,’’ Pragnell said. ‘‘It is almost like all the years of training come down to [this] week,’’ Pragnell said.

‘‘In saying that though you try not to think about it like that because it’s easy to put a lot of pressure on yourself.’’

Pragnell heads into the qualifiers locked in a head-to-head battle with Victorian Will Lockwood for the final berth on the Australian fours team.

It’s a rivalry that’s been played out in full over the past few weeks with the two Olympic hopefuls training together as part of Rowing Australia’s squad.

‘‘It’s been pretty serious, there’s not a great deal of conversation between us,’’ he laughed.

‘‘It’s a bit out of my hands at the moment. He’ll race [on Friday], I’ll race on Sunday and then they’ll match up our times and pick one bloke.’’

If Pragnell doesn’t get the nod to be a part of the Australian foursome, he’s considered a strong chance of making the eight.

That in itself would mark a major achievement for the former Australian under-21 and under-23 representative who until recently had considered the eight-man crew his best shot at London.

‘‘I never really had it in my mind until this year to go for the four, it always seemed like something out of reach,’’ he said.

‘‘A couple of months ago if you’d told me I was going to make the eight I’d have been stoked. Now there’s an opportunity in the four but I’d be happy either way.

‘‘If I could be in the top boat though, that would be awesome.’’