The Final Qualifier ended with just four events today, and while things may have been spread out a bit in the Men's and Women's Single, where the top four would get Olympic bids, the margins in the two men's doubles finals, heavy and light, were crushing close.
The USA had another three spots to chase today--M2x, W1x, and LM2x--but the racing was not as kind for the USA on the second day of finals; just a day removed from three happy crews atop the podium, and headed to London, just one American got the prize today: Gevvie Stone in the Women's Single.
In the end, the USA upped its total Olympic qualification number from the disappointing 8 earned in Bled to 12 overall, and Team USA will be tied, along with New Zealand, for the third largest squad at Eton-Dorney; only Germany has qualified in all fourteen events, while Team GB and the Aussies will race 13 events each.
The only US boat to qualify on Wednesday, sculler Gevvie Stone made good on years of work and can now call herself an Olympian. Stone finished in third place behind Australia and Denmark to grab one of the four available spots for London in her event.
“Today was definitely a good piece,” Stone said about attacking her race from stroke one. “Yesterday my first 500 wasn’t as good as it could be or should be, so I knew I had to strengthen that today. I was right with the Estonian for that whole first 500, and she’s usually a faster starter than I am. So then I felt like I was in a good spot being right next her and being able to see what Iva [Orbradovic, SRB] and Sanita [Puspure, IRL] were doing in the far lanes.” Stone took control of the third position in the second 500, but the race was far from over. She added, “I knew that lane five and six were fighting it out and I knew that I had to give it everything to stay ahead of that battle. I didn’t want to risk getting passed by both of them, so I had to keep awareness of what was going on over there and it’s the final, so you have to sprint it out!”
That leaves just 65 days left until the start of the Olympic Regatta, and Stone will be trying to squeeze as much more extra speed out of those days, starting with all the extra racing she can get in against her fellow Olympians at this weekend's Lucerne World Cup. She has the step after that all figured out, too: “My master’s guys back in Boston are already signed up for another two months of training. I’m just excited to be going to the Olympics and looking forward to getting faster!”
One interesting storyline in the Women's Single ahead of the Games: the winner here, Kim Crow of Australia, already has a spot in her nation's pre-qualified double--a boat she won a silver with in Bled. She raced the single here to hedge her bets in the face of an injury to her partner, Brooke Pratley. It will be interesting to see how that injury issue plays out, and which event Crow will actually race in London.
Just before Stone's race, the short afternoon--just four finals--started with the Men's Double. USA's Sam Stitt and Warren Anderson turned in a solid semifinal performance on Tuesday, never really in danger of not going through, despite the novelty of a dead heat for first with Azerbaijan at the line. In the final today, however, Stitt and Anderson could not recreate that same speed. They trailed the field by a length at the thousand, and the leaders ITA and UKR by two or more. Not even a strong third 500 could push the US bow higher than fourth. With just two Olympic spaces on offer, that would not be enough, and the berths went to the Italians and Ukrainians, with the Azerbaijanis missing out on London just a half second back, in third.
Stitt and Anderson will now return to Chula Vista to try and make the men’s quad, a crew they powered to an Olympic berth last summer in Bled. The USA does not need to name its lineup for the M4x until mid June, leaving time for further selection ahead of the Games, and another chance for Stitt and Anderson to make the 2012 Olympic Team.
LIGHTWEIGHT MEN’S DOUBLE
Lightweight scullers Will Daly and Andrew Campbell had been building speed throughout the regatta, knowing they would need it today. With only two places available in this, one of the deeper events at the regatta, there was no room for error. Hungary, the form crew all week, went out on the lead right away, but the US held on to second for most of the middle half of the race, if only by tenths of a second over the Australians. Across 1500, all three crews were within a deck and even the Hungarians were never completely out of reach, but in the end, Daly and Campbell could not hold off the savvy Australians in the final sprint.
The result, a stark contrast to the emphatic win pulled off the Light Men's Four a day earlier, put a sudden end to a yearlong quest by this duo to qualify. The challenge of the light double--a crew the USA has qualified via the FQ before, in both 2004 and 2008--had lured 2008 Olympian Will Daly out of the light men's sweep group and brought him to Boston to row with Campbell after the younger sculler's exceptional 2011 campaign as both the U23 and senior team light single sculler. The combo had a very successful winter training in New Zealand and looked to have excellent speed all week, but never got enough traction on the field in the final to lock up an Olympic spot. Such is the danger and finality of this last Olympic qualifier: there is no second chance after the last chance race.
QUALIFIED CREWS WEDNESDAY
Men’s Double ITA, UKR
Women’s Single AUS, DEN, USA, IRL
Men’s Single BEL, CRO, POL, DEN
Lightweight Men’s Double HUN, AUS
OVERALL QUALIFICATION STATS Top 8 Nations, by # of Events Qualified
Germany is the only nation qualified in all 14 Olympic events
GER 14 qualified crews, added 2 qualifications at FQ
GBR 13 qualified crews, added no addl qualifications at FQ (all events except W1x)
AUS 13 qualified crews, added 3 qualifications at FQ (all events except M1x)
USA 12 qualified crews, added 4 qualifications at FQ
NZL 12 qualified crews, added no addl qualifications at FQ
ITA 9 qualified crews, added 1 addl qualification at FQ
CHN 8 qualified crews, added no addl qualifications at FQ
CAN 7 qualified crews, added no addl qualifications at FQ