The Friday Semifinal races at Duisburg were the final cuts, separating the also-rans from the crews who will be racing for the championships tomorrow. Five US crews were in action. The racing was run in slightly cooler temps than earlier in the week, with a slight cross head-wind and intermittent and torrential raifall.
US JW1x Susan BeVille rowed a solid race to win her C/D semifinal. After starting in third, BeVille trailed only the Yugoslavian going into the last 500, then rowed down the balkan sculler in the final quarter to claim a three-length win. Slovenia, who led the race early, took the last qualifying spot. BeVille will race Yugoslavia, Slovenia, Estonia, Argentina and Venezuela in the C-Final on Friday morning.
The headwind that intermittently wafted up the course spelled trouble for the USA's JM1x Owen Pope. Undersized compared to his competition, Pope rowed a consistent and competent race but finished one spot out of qualifying for the C-Final, and will row in the D-Final tomorrow.
Abby Loughrey and Heather Schofield in the USA JW2x put the disappointment of crabbing in the rep yesterday behind them, and rowed to a strong second place in their semifinal, finishing just behind the crew from the Netherlands. Though racing in the C-Final will ultimately not satisfy this crew from Pittsburgh, which went into this championships with great ambitions, Loughrey and Schofield can look back on the regatta with the knowledge that they've rebounded well from a costly mistake.
The evidence for the worldwide growth in rowing was strongly evident in these lower semifinals, with crews from Venezuela, Moldavia and Paraguay all qualifying for the C-Finals. However, the US JM2x found out uncomfortably just how much faster the rest of the world has gotten when they lost what seemed like a sure qualifying spot to a surging Japanese crew in the last 500 meters. With Nate O'Connor and Brent Peterson keeping their nose just over one second ahead of Japan coming into the 1500 meter mark, the Japanese took 5 seconds out of the US in the last quarter to send them into the D-Final.
Talk about genes; 20 years after then-East Germany's Thomas Lange won the Jr. World Championships in the JM2x (beating a guy named Redgrave in the process), his son Martin, making his German Junior team debut, qualified for the final in the same event.
In the last event of the day, the Semis for the Jr. Men's 8+, the USA once again found itself looking at the wrong end of a tight result. Running close, but not close enough, the USA Juniors finished fourth in their semi, six seats behind the Brits, and will thus race in the B-Final tomorrow. Though times on the course had been inconsistent on the day, the US would have won the second semi-final by almost three seconds.
This result also means that no US men's crew will race for medals on Saturday. On the flip side, Germany is the only nation that has qualified boats for the A-Finals in all 14 events, a staggering achievement, but hardly unusual given Germany's past achievement at this level.
If the Semis were any indication (and watching rowers slump over their oars or fall back in the boat at the end of a race decided by a deck length should be a reason to think that they were), then Saturday's Finals will be a treat to watch.