A few years before Germany's Jason Osborne and Andrew Campbell. Jr. lined up against each in the lightweight single semifinal at the 2018 World Rowing Championship Thursday, they began a bit of a back and forth rivalry.
Osborne and his lightweight men's double partner, Moritz Moos, beat Campbell and his double's partner Josh Konieczny in the final strokes in the semifinal at the 2015 World Rowing Championships in Aiguebelette, France during the Olympic qualifying season.
Campbell and Konieczny finished second in the B final, and the German's finished sixth in the final, but both crews qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics, where they met again.
That time, Campbell and Konieczny beat Moos and Osborne in the semi. Campbell's boat advanced to the final and finished 5th and Orsborne went to the B final and finished ninth overall.
"He nipped us at the line in Aiguebelette and sent me and Josh (Konieczny) to the B final in the double," Campbell said. But we saw them again in Rio and beat them in the semifinal there. We have a bit of history," Campbell said.
There was no nipping Thursday.
Osborne got the lead on the field in their semifinal and stayed there. Campbell went after him with Canada's Aaron Lattimer right behind them and going hard. Campbell challenged Osborne several times during the piece, but Osborne held onto the lead and won in 6:52.97, with Campbell a heartbeat behind in 6:53.65. Lattimer was third in 6:55.72.
All three will go to the Friday final along with the top three scullers from the previous semifinal - Switzerland's Michael Schmid, Peter Galambos of Hungary, and China's Man Sun.
Campbell was the first of five US crews that reached a final in their events in racing Thursday, including Michelle Sechser in the light women's single, Mary Nabel and Emily Schmieg in the lightweight women's double, and the women's four and women's quad.
So far, this week, both Campbell and Osborne have been having a solid regatta. Campbell is racing internationally for the first time since Rio. Osborne went into the single last season and finished sixth at the 2017 World Rowing Championships.
This year he won both World Cups I and II, and in the heat Sunday, he set a new World's Best Time. Osborne was fast off the line in the semifinal, and even though he won, after the race he said he was not happy.
"I'm not very happy with my semi, it wasn't like I expected. I wanted to race aggressively. But in the end, everyone is fighting for it and of course, it is close. I think it's going to be really, really exciting tomorrow. Really tight.
"It was of course a good start," he said of setting the world's best time. "But I must go on. It's not over yet. It's really strong this year in the field. Campbell, the Canadian, are both really good. I never heard anything from Campbell this season, and now he's here."
Campbell, on the other hand, said he was satisfied with how he rowed and the way the race went.
"I've been saying this forever, semifinals are the hardest," Campbell said. "This is the worst, most stressful race, because there is very little upside and there is a lot of downside, like you're supposed to make it into the A final.
"But it's tactically difficult because you want to have a measured race so you can go hard tomorrow, but at the same time you want don't want to let someone go or give anyone a mental advantage going into the final," he said.
"So, I feel like I raced well, I raced pretty smart, and I got to see a lot more of the field. It was good to see the Canadian guy up close. He did well in the heat. So, I'm pleased with how it went and I think I have a good shot at the podium tomorrow."
Following Campbell's race on the schedule was his US lightweight women's counterpart, Michelle Sechser.
Sechser traded punches with Imogen Grant from Great Britain and at the line, Grant won in 7:43.01, with Sechser following in second in 7:44.84. Canada's Jill Moffatt was third and advanced in the final position in 7:45.85.
Sechser will get another shot at both of those women Friday in the final.
"It was a good race. It's always nice to come away from the heat and have goals to improve upon and be able to come back for the semi and clean up a couple of areas in the race plan," Sechser said. "So, step two is accomplished, and hopefully tomorrow, we can bring it all together.
"I came off the line a little bit hotter than in the heat, in an exciting way, and then I just tried to carry that momentum through the thousand. That felt pretty good and then it came down to a really exciting sprint, with GB moving, and then Canada closing in.
"It was a fun fight. Coming through that thousand, I was trying to put a more definitive attack together in the body of the piece, rather than waiting, and I think that worked out well today," she said.
Another lightweight crew having an impressive regatta was the lightweight women's double with Nabel and Schmieg. With a win in the heat allowing them to skip the rep, Nabel and Schmeig went to the line rested and ready to race.
They led from the start, but in the final 500 meters they were overtaken by Romania. Romania won in 6:59.23, with the US right behind in 6:59.95. Switzerland finished third in 7:01.11.
Mary Nabel and Emily Schmieg
"We felt great during the race, we executed a really clean start, and we were able to settle into a really solid base rhythm," Schmieg said. "We kept an eye on Romania, South Africa and the Swiss over in lane six and continued to execute what we practiced and were able to make an appearance into the A final," she said.
"It was definitely a hard-fought race," added Nabel. "No one gets into a final for free. You have to put up your best performance in the semifinal to advance and we had a to race with lots of great competition. So, we're really excited to have executed it and to be moving on for a chance for medals."
While, Campbell and Sechser race the final Friday. The light women's double races Saturday.
Contesting for places in the Saturday in addition to the double were the US women's four and quads. And both found their way through.
The four went first, racing in the lead from start to finish. It was the second win in two days for the women's sweep team, following the women's eight win in the heat that put them in the Sunday final.
"The overall training center group is amazing," said Erin Reelick. "You have so many strong women there who are all striving to compete at the highest level and there is nothing like that to push you on a day to day basis.
"This four is such a fun group. We're a little younger, maybe a little less experienced than some in the group, but I feel like we all have this ferocity and desire to get out there and lay it all out and at the end of the day, that's what brings you all together to go as hard as you can.
"It was great, a good race," Reelick said. "We had some things to work on this week, and I think we got out there and definitely improved on them. We're still working to find more speed for the final on Saturday. It's great to advance, we're psyched. There is still the final to come."
In the final qualifying race of the morning, the women's quad added one more final to the US Princeton training center group. After a less than satisfying heat that saw the boat finish third, but advance to the semifinal, the performance in the semifinal Thursday was more of what they expected come to Plovdiv, said Elizabeth Sonshine.
"It was a nice race to have after our heat," Sonshine said. "We had some more aggression, rowed a bit cleaner and together a bit more. We're excited to improve upon that in the final.
"We didn't have the best heat, but it was still enough to qualify, so we were grateful to have a few days to get it back together and really hone in our focus and just kind of put the heat behind us and see now much further we could get."
Other Crews in Competition Thursday
Beside the crews that advanced into the finals Thursday, several others raced Thursday, including John Graves and Ben Davison, who were racing a rep in the men's double, Michael Colella and Anders Weiss racing the pair in the quarterfinals, Kevin Meador in a men's single quarterfinal, and the men's quad that was racing in a rep.
The double rep was scheduled to be run Wednesday, and was one of the events canceled because of wind conditions and when they finished out of the A/B semi in the morning, they raced again in the C/D semi in the afternoon and finished second to gain a place in the C final.
Likewise, the pair failed to advance from the Quarterfinal, but won their C/D semi, and will also contest the C final in their event. The men's quad also did not advance from the rep and will race in the B final.
The women's pair of Vicky Opitz and Gia Doonan, who are doubling up in the eight, also raced in the semifinal, but finished fourth and did not make the final. Both women, however, are racing in the women's eight final Sunday.
Vicky Opitz and Gia Doonan
Finals Begin Friday
It's that time of the week. After five days of racing, the finals are finally here. Ten events will see medals awarded and of those, the US will have seven crews looking to reach the podium, including the lightweight men's and women's singles, the lightweight women's quad, the lightweight men's and women's pair.
In para events, Laura Goodkind will race in the PR2 women's single and in the PR3 mixed double, Joshua Boissoneau and Pearl Outlaw race in the final of that event. Full start list.
Notes From the Course
Ice baths are a necessary part of post-race recovery and just about every team uses them. Some teams can afford two large ones, some bring just one, and some use what looks like a large flower pot (at least that's what two women from the Hungarian team were trying to squeeze into . . .
Some of the best grimaces of the week don't happen on the start line, or even the finish, but in those very cold tubs. The German men, however, seem to enjoy it . . .
Cat Update: Since there is no shortage of feral cats wandering around in the woods surrounding the Plovdiv race course, it's no surprise there are kittens. Bunches of them were venturing out from under the bushes and behind the fence at the finish line Thursday. Feral cats are, well, feral and mostly look kind of ruff around the edges.
Kittens are just cute. Here's a few shots. (We promise this is the last cat item in the notes this week - maybe . . .