From runners to oars, Crow's on song

Kim Crow can thank her own fragile feet for putting her on track for a mind-boggling tilt at Olympic history.

But she shouldn't forget sculling crew-mate Brooke Pratley's dodgy ribs as well.

A series of injuries have been the blessings in disguise which have led to the lanky 26-year-old accepting Mission Improbable and making it possible at the London Games.

Former track runner Crow has been the talk of Eton Dorney for her bold bid at the single and double sculls, and realistic expectation of success in both.

In position to be the queen of the Olympic regatta, she's equal parts exciting, surprising and confounding the rowing fraternity.

But just seven years ago Crow still hoped to compete for Australia in the 400m hurdles or 800m, with Jana Pittman and Tamsyn Lewis, at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in her home town of Melbourne.

It was a series of injuries to both feet, and subsequent surgery, which sidelined her and had her on the brink of quitting.

Victorian Institute of Sport coaches Chris O'Brien and John Cumper spotted her on a rowing machine and put a stop to her career.

"I was in no-man's land," Crow said. "It was a blessing in disguise when they suggested I give it a go.

"I also really enjoyed the camaraderie of the sport. I had my first row at Uni Games, and it was fun.

"Even if it wasn't going to be something I went to the Olympics in I just loved the sport."

Crow quickly took to it and rowed for the Australian women's eight the next year before first making her name in the pair with Sarah Cook.

But it's only been her left-field selection in both the single sculls and double, with Pratley, in the past six weeks which has made world rowing stand up and take notice.

Many of her rivals think it's crazy to even consider such a gruelling program - six races over 2000m, four by yourself in eight days, as it endangers the chances of success in the stronger event.

But it's a plan that was sparked when doubles crew-mate Pratley broke down with rib stress fractures in April.

Crow qualified for the singles for Australia in May in Switzerland, and then backed up to almost win the event at the subsequent Lucerne World Cup where she competed in six races over eight days in total.

Her efforts were so impressive that Rowing Australia coaches gave Pratley the ultimatum she needed to return in time for the Munich World Cup in mid-June, and required a top-two finish with Crow to keep the doubles boat afloat.

They did, trailing home British world champions Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins on just a week's preparation.

Watkins is one who can't understand Crow's gamble, wondering whether she wanted two silver instead of one gold on Lake Dorney.

But it was music to the ears of Crow, the daughter of former Essendon ruckman Max Crow.

"You can't tell her she can't do something," said mother Sue, who revealed the double was still her daughter's priority after silver medals behind the Brits at the past two world championships.

"She's not happy. She wants the gold, she wants to beat the British girls and that's the priority this year."

Pratley likens her to Hollywood's Ironman in the Avengers.

"It's like when Thor throws lightning bolts at Ironman, it just makes him stronger".

Only one rower before has medalled in both events at the Olympics - Romanian great Elisabeta Lipa who claimed gold in the single and silver in the double at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

Nobody has tried since.

Current singles world champion Mirka Knapkova was forced to double up in the finals at the Beijing Games due to injury to a Czech teammate and hated it, coming last in the double.

Rowing experts say the improved strength and depth in women's rowing makes Crow's task much, much harder.

She and Pratley are ranked second in the double while Crow is probably only behind Chinese veteran Xiuyyun Zhyang in the single.

After winning all three races in the first four days of her campaign, Crow herself is just excited to be having a crack as she lines up for the final three.

"I love racing," she said. "I struggle to see that it's such a big deal. We race a lot all the time and I think people across all sports, you sit on the start line and you can't help but race. It's fun."