Sponsoring a school mate at Salt

TOM Ray used to row against Gold Coast Olympic sculler Duncan Free in high school.

Yesterday the Ray Group chief once again challenged his friend and Mr Free's pairs team-mate Drew Ginn to a friendly competition to celebrate a sponsorship deal that is making it easier for the pair to prepare for the upcoming Beijing games.

With Mr Ginn living in Melbourne, and with just five weeks to the Olympics, the world champion pairs team are staying with their families at Salt'\'s Drift Apartments, and have been given a $3000 sponsorship package from Salt Village so they can focus on their preparations for the games.

"We used to row together 20 years ago, and Duncan's dad was my coach," said Mr Ray, who teamed with Domain Resorts CEO David Catterall for yesterday's race.

"But I was never at the level that Duncan or Drew would have been at that age.

"Just look at those guys, and then look at David and I. It's not looking good for a win for us," Mr Ray joked.

With the aim of taking away a medal from the game, Mr Free and Mr Drew, their families and coach Chris O'Brien will stay at the Drift Apartments for the next three weeks.

Mr Free, of Robina, said the support will make a huge difference to their preparation for the strongly contested coxless pairs event.

"Everything we need to train is within easy reach here," said Mr Free.

"It's really hard to spend time with the family when you are training.

"But we have been able to train for a couple of hours, and then have a few off with the family, which is great.

"It makes the hard work more bearable."

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