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COLUMNISTS

Mon, August 16, 2004

Brother boaters


For a good part of the race, their tears were masked by sunglasses. But not for long.

With their three sons in the midst of making Olympic history by rowing together in the same boat, Richard and Fran Stewart's tears eventually streamed down their faces.

As parents, it would have been enough just to see the trio row by, working as one for the very first time on the international stage.

However, when it became apparent their precious sons were going to shock their sport with a win, landing Australia in the Olympic final of rowing's glamour division -- men's eights -- it all became too much.

"Well done Stewarts, well done," cried their mother, turning to embrace her husband as James, Geoff and Steve crossed the finish line. "That's just the best thing I've ever seen. Fabulous, I'm so proud. What a wonderful row."

It's not like the Stewarts haven't had plenty of emotional moments in the past as identical twins James and Geoff, 31, rowed in two previous Olympics, winning bronze in Sydney. But the addition of little brother Steve, 26, made it the first brother trio in Games history to row in the same competition, let alone the same boat.

"Just having a brother in the same crew is an amazing thing but having two brothers at the Olympics is a pretty rare feat," said Geoff, as the family huddled for post race hugs and kisses. "It's brought the family a lot closer the last couple months."

Having never competed anywhere outside Australia as a crew, the Aussies represented a wildcard in an event dominated by Canada the last two years.

Shortly after the Stewarts led the crew to the upset win in their heat, Canada was stunned by the U.S. Both race winners qualified for next Sunday's final while Canada will have another shot through tomorrow's repechage.

"It's a great day," said Steve, who walked away from the sport a few years ago, unsure he'd fulfill his Olympic dreams.

"It's my first international race with my brothers and it was really exciting just to be with them. It's never been done before so it's pretty special. We tried to keep it down a bit and not get too excited about it so we just supported each other and figured we'd be OK.

"They've been here before so I just kept my mouth shut and listened to them."

Having raced against Steve several times over the last few years, Geoff and James knew their younger sibling was one of the country's best, capable of anything.

"Before the race we gave each other a brotherly hug and said 'good on ya, let's go,' " said James.

"It's the first time I've raced with Geoff and Steve together in the same crew so it's a pretty big draw for all of us, my parents especially."

You've got that right.


Does Canada's low-medal haul in Athens bother you?
Yes, it depresses me
No, it's just sports
I'm disappointed, but not worried
We'll get 'em in Turin
Don't care

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