Jacqui off to Beijing - with help from sister
By Steve Spinks
JACQUI LAWRENCE could lay claim to two firsts at the weekend.
One: She is the first athlete from the Northern Rivers to earn selection for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Two: She is the first athlete from Old Bonalbo to win a spot in an Australian Olympic team.
In emotional scenes at the Sydney International Regatta Centre, Lawrence held off the heavily favoured Louise Natoli and sister Kate to claim the spot for the K1 slalom kayak in the Australian Olympic team.
"I'm so excited," Jacqui wrote on her web page.
"I couldn't wipe the smile from my face or the tears from my eyes all day.
"I don't think I ever really believed this would happen.
"The past year has been a struggle in several respects and by the time selection arrived I wasn't concerned about results any more.
"I just wanted to put what I'd learnt into practice and see what I could do.
"This enabled me to relax - and the results came."
The weekend before, Jacqui had won the women's K1 slalom in the Oceania Olympic selection regatta which also doubled as the national titles.
This weekend was the second leg of national selection with two races over two days at Penrith.
Louise Natoli claimed the first race, with Jacqui second and Kate Lawrence third.
With Natoli and Jacqui having won a race apiece, selection would come down to the final race.
Kate Lawrence was leading after the first run with Jacqui second and Natoli fifth.
However, Jacqui capsized on her second run and earned a 50-second penalty, ensuring she was no chance of taking the race.
But sister Kate came through to save the day by denying Natoli the win and thereby ensuring Jacqui's seat on the plane to Beijing.
Jacqui and Kate finished equal on selection points, having had a win and a second in each of their two best results, however more importance was placed on Jacqui's win at the Oceania championships the weekend before.
Younger sister Rosalyn Lawrence capped a great weekend for the family be earning a spot in the Australia Under-23 team to contest the World Series races in September.
In further good news, Jacqui's partner Torsten Lachmann will also compete in Beijing in the men's C1 flatwater race.
It's been a tough few months for Jacqui.
She's battled illness, including tonsillitis, and also had her car catch on fire when she was driving back to Sydney after spending Christmas at Old Bonalbo.