Ballarat rower receives 11th hour Olympic call-up

Lucy Stephan (front) competing in the Women's Four during day three of the 2013 World Rowing Championships.
Lucy Stephan (front) competing in the Women's Four during day three of the 2013 World Rowing Championships.

Former Ballarat Grammar rower Lucy Stephan will row for Australia in Rio after a sensational last-minute decision to ban more Russian drug cheats.

One of Russia's crew, Anastasia Karabelshchikova, was banned from competing because of her doping history, leading to the entire boat being ruled ineligible.

The result: the Australia Women's Eight is now heading to the Games, a crew in which 24-year-old Stephan features.

"The decision, handed down by FISA today, is an incredible boost for Australian women's sweep rowing and women's rowing in general," chairman of Rowing Australia Rob Scott said.

"To have more women being given the opportunity to compete at the pinnacle level of their sport will provide the inspiration for others to follow in their footsteps.

"Rowing Australia has always been committed to clean and fair competition and we commend FISA on their strong action in response to the recent findings of the McLaren Report."

Lucy Stephan (far right) after winning the 2009 Head of the Lake for Ballarat Grammar.

Lucy Stephan (far right) after winning the 2009 Head of the Lake for Ballarat Grammar.

Australia initially failed to qualify for the Games but were the first reserve for the Rio showpiece which starts next week.

They had reassembled in Melbourne to maintain fitness in the hope of a favourable decision, and will now focus on the getting ready for Brazil.

Initially from Nhill, Stephan attended Ballarat Grammar as a border, taking up rowing in her final years at the school.

Following her success in the age-capped events, Stephan was forced to work hard in January and February of this year to earn a place in the senior national squad at the national trials.

Stephan then made the move to Sydney in order to train with the nation’s finest rowers.

Her crew finished third in final qualifying in Switzerland in May, with Russia claiming the last spot by finishing second.

However, with Russia now banned, Australia has earned its place.

The 24-year-old was part of Grammar’s 2009 Head of the Lake winning crew in 2009, before moving to Melbourne where she rowed for Melbourne University Boat Club.