Saturday marked a day of critical advancement for some, and an end to their 2017 Junior Worlds run for others; with really all the semis in the morning, and the "lower finals" (including Finals C for most events through, wow, Final G in the men's single), it was a long day of largely passionate and good racing. I had mentioned a couple days ago that the level at Junior Worlds seems to be up this year, and since then several folks have shared the same sentiment unbidden. As we have discussed a bit in previous reports, it hasn't been only the usual suspects winning and advancing in the racing.
That did change a bit today - the A finals are heavy with "traditional" rowing powers - but not entirely, as Mexico, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Spain, and Chile all put at least one crew into tomorrow's A Finals. And of course that means that some more traditional powers are in the B finals, which should be pretty darn good themselves.
For US crews, the highlights came from the women's four, the women's quad, and again from Clark Dean in the men's single, who won his fourth race in four days today while posting the best time of the two singles semis. Dean will have his hands full tomorrow, and then some; he races in the A final of the coxed four at 11:10 on Sunday, then has to be back at the starting line for the single at 1:45. Dean is optimistic his preparation is up to the challenge.
"We planned for this situation, and I believe my training both throughout the summer and school year puts me in a place where I can race multiple times a day without a significant decrease in performance," he said. "In between the races I will probably cool down for 50 minutes or so, get my legs and arms flushed out, chill for a half hour, and then warm it back up!"
The women's four semis were the first A/B semis of the day, and the US women got after it straight away, leading from the start almost all the way down the course until the Chinese crew edged ahead to take first by a little under a second. USA three-seat Rose Carr said the crew had been focusing on a better start after struggling out of the gates in the heat, and were happy with their row.
"We were really looking forward to this race we wanted to treat each race as a building block to see what we could do," she said. "We wanted to set ourselves up a little bit differently for this one, to change on our first thousand, get out a little quicker. Then from there, we had a little more control over what we were doing. We did what we wanted in this one, and we're really excited for tomorrow."
Semis can be tricky, especially when racing from the lead; just when you think you're set out in front, crews trying to get into the A final just behind start throwing everything at it, and you find yourself in a race again. Carr shared her thoughts on this fact of rowing racing.
"You have to be willing to lay things on the line," she said. "The last 20 strokes in a semi-final, or of any race really, it's really important to be a little daring. You want to be as precise as you can, and to be as brave as you can, just going for it. Especially if it's a tight race, it's really important that you stay with your boat and follow the rhythm of your strokes that is given you, and give it all you've got."
That said, the crew had enough confidence in their position not to have to do that, and were not rattled by China's surge.
"Today, we saw it coming, and wanted to do something about it, but at the same time, we wanted the qualifying spot. To try to win it would have been a different gear shift, and we were already in a position to do what we wanted to do today."
The women's quad is composed of three newcomers (including three-seat Taylor English, who at 15 years old and a few weeks is the youngest person competing in Trakai) along with returning doubles world champ Caroline Sharis, and while it would have been reasonable to think the rookies might have been rattled by showing up at a record-setting Junior Worlds, stroke seat Anna Matthes found exactly the opposite when she arrived.
"When we got here, I realized that everyone is in the same boat," she said. "You're not racing adults; we're all juniors. Everyone's been training really hard all summer just the same as you have. So I am nervous, but not as nervous as I thought I would be."
In their semi today, the crew had to lean on it hard during the middle of the race to overcome a shaky start.
Matthes says that very training is what she has leaned on so far in Trakai.
"In our semi we were behind off the start, but I knew we had the power in us to bring us through," she said. Then we had a really good third 500, and it brought us through the A finals.
"A lot of it is trusting your training," she continued. "We've been training so hard this whole summer, and thinking back to all the pieces we have done in the past, it comes down to really trusting that when you're in the middle of that race. Go out to race the entire race for each race, whether it be the heats, semis, or the finals. You have to be ready to race the entire thing."
But none of this is to say Matthes won't bring some of the rookie spark to the proceedings.
"This is my first Worlds, and I'm just really excited," she said. "I think we're all just pretty excited; tomorrow we're just going to go out and row our hardest."
US highlights of the "lower" finals included a wire-to-wire C final win by Claire Campbell; see the full results from today's racing here.
Notes from the Course:
- Estonian rowing legend Juri Jaanson's daughter Greta is racing the women's 1x here in Trakai, and dad was on hand to see her race today, clapping heartily as she rowed past the dock after what was probably a disappointing fourth place in the A/B semi. Greta just turned 17 this summer, so does that mean she has to row for 23 more years into her 40s, like her Dad did? She's off to a decent start at least.
- Official's Launch 6 did not have a good day today; after apparently struggling throughout the day, the crew was stranded out in Lane 0 in the final 50 meters of the racecourse, and the crosswind from Lane 6 slowly pushed them away from the course and into the tall reeds, despite attempts to paddle against the headwinds. A rescue boat eventually came and pushed them the rest of the way through the reeds to the other side of the lake, then towed them home after the racing.
- Only one flip today, but it was a good one, with a good recovery to boot. (click through for full sequence)
- As part of their recovery tactics, NZ crews are eating sandwiches out of Ziploc bags at the medals dock after each race. We know it's junior racing, but it looks like the lunchroom out there! (Seriously, it looks like a promising tactic.)
- Others are going a bit more high-tech in ice jackets; PBJ, ice jackets, same difference...
- The hill above the start has a very cool wooden sun sculpture that looks down directly on the racecourse, including straight at the Trakai Castle; it made for a sunburst at both ends of the course
- Happy Trakai birthday to this guy!