Terrific, close racing under sunny skies provided a fitting ending for the 2001 Junior World Rowing Championships as champions were crowned in 14 events.
By the beginning of the racing, the Grandstand had filled up almost to capacity and the noise level had increased considerably. The most unusual aspect of the racing was the weather; the sunshine held up over the lunchbreak for the first time since the opening heats of the regatta.
The afternoon racing got off to a cracking start in the Junior men's coxed four. The German crew, doubtless feeling the home-crowd advantage, pulled out a sliver of a lead over Romania in the first 500 meters. The lead held up, but at the 1500 meter, the Romanians had cut the gap to .49 seconds, while the crew from the GB had closed water between themselves and the lead crews. In the last 500 however, the Germans found an extra gear and put almost an entire length between themselves and Romania to claim the first gold medal for the hosts. Romania had given everything, and the crew rowed to the awards platform sans stroke, who had been pulled out of the boat. Surprise bronze medallist was Italy, who rowed the fastest final 500 to overhaul the GB.
This one was over after 500 meters, with the defending champions from Belarus 2 lengths up on the field. Romania and Germany filled into the silver and bronze positions, and the finishing order remained unchanged for the last 1500, with Belarus crossing the line at what appeared to be a rating of 26 or lower, rowing extremely easily. For the US crew of Alexis Peterson and Amanda Kendrick, staying in contact was all they could do, finishing 6th.
Shades of Sydney; with the crew from Latvia striding out front, being closely shadowed by Germany, the race would appear to be between these two crews. In the last 500 meters however, the crew from France mounted a surge that took them through Germany, and then Latvia, and carried them to an open water win, with Latvia hanging on for the silver ahead of Germany.
Off the start, it was Belarus, Germany and the US neck and neck, with no crew giving another an inch. At the 500 meter mark, the crew stroked by Deb Dryer rowed in solid silver medal position behind Belarus, and ahead of Germany. Coming into the 1000, the US was striking 39 and opened up a half length over the Germans and the rapidly closing Australians, still keeping an eye on Belarus. Despite the tremendous pressure from the Aussies and Germans, the US put in a solid finish to claim the silver; a terrific effort from a crew whose confidence had looked shaken earlier in the week.
"We didn't talk about [Belarus] at all," said US coach Mandi Kowal. "We just talked about having our best piece. We had absolutely the best start we've had at this regatta."
This race had three lead changes as the French crew was first to the 500 meters, was then rowed through by a ballistic Belarus boat, only to regroup and get back to open water by the finish. Coming back from last place at halfway to claim the bronze medal was Canada. France claimed their second gold medal in an Olympic sweep event, while this race also marked the first time all afternoon that Germany did not make it to the podium.
Romania is also staking a claim to the top of the medal table at the regatta, and the win by the Romanian Georgeta Craciun was the third medal of the early afternoon for Romania. The sculler from Bulgaria snatched the silver medal from the defending champion, Germany's Julia Heidtman, who claimed the bronze medal.
Matt Langridge of Great Britain will be a sculler to watch in the future. The young Brit led a fast field for most of the race, then took it part in the last 500 meters to put the result out of doubt. Australia's Scott Brennan took Silver, just ahead of Germany's Harald Heller.