Coming into the Sunday finals, it looked like Germany was having a good regatta, but by day's end, it was almost ridiculous, as the German squad medaled in six of the seven A finals, including four gold medals in the women's eight, men's double, and both the men's and women's singles. The German junior juggernaut is well known, but in all, Germany won 10 medals in the 13 events, an exceptional weekend no matter how good the squad has been historically.
Despite Germany's dominance, a few newcomers made their way to the medal stand, including the first ever junior Worlds medal of any kind for Ireland, won by women's single sculler Holly Nixon, and the first medal in the single for Latvia by sculler Andrii Mykhailov. Romania followed Germany in the medals table tally with five medals; Italy had four; Greece three; France, Great Britain, New Zealand, Spain, and the USA two each; and seven other countries with one each.
A junior championship probably cannot be beat for exuberance and cameraderie on the medals stand, but some of the athletes did not want to wait that long. In the men's single, the scullers from Germany and Ukraine brought their boats together and hugged on the water (see sequence starting here); it was great to see, and is reminiscent of the camaraderie shown by the guys racing the men's 1x at the senior level these days.
Up on the medal stand, the Lithuanian women's double looked more like a coxed single, as the stroke is a full head taller than the bow seat. It turns out that the bow seat might not be so small, to boot, as she was the same size as everyone else up on the medal stand.
The stroke of the German's men's quad was in a very bad way after the race, and had to get some medical attention before the medal ceremony. By the time the medals had been given out, he was doing better, but when he dove for a German flag tossed from the stands, everyone thought he was going down hard and for good this time. Fortunately, he snagged the flag just before it hit the ground, and stood up, if a little slowly, to the cheers of the crowd.
It was worth the dive – all of the German medalists shared the same flag when up on the medal stand, one with dozens of signatures on it.
All of the medalists are presented with a stuffed 2012 mascot along with their medals – check it out. Odd-seeming mascots in China I understood, as their cultural imagery is very different from the West, but what explains Great Britain coming up with a Union Jack Cyclops doll?
I failed to mention yesterday that the Swiss sculler flipped in the last few strokes of the race yesterday; she was in position to advance to the final by about a half-deck, and it all just came apart for her a 15 meters from the finish line.
In their comments after the races (see below), a large number of medalists in team boats mentioned having spent very little time rowing together – giving somewhat of a lie to the assumption stateside that one of the reasons we struggle overseas is not enough time in the boat. I am a supporter of spending time together, so this is not to say time in the boat is not important, but at the junior level, it seems possibly to be other than all-important, at least; mentioned here mainly something to think about.
We didn't hear it today, alas, but I did notice yesterday that the version of the US national anthem used here has had the middle section reharmonized; weird. Almost across the board, the version of the national anthems used over the weekend were paced much too slow for the juniors to sing along; move it, time to party! (And thanks to Alberic Cormerais of France for saying what everyone else was thinking in his quotes found below.)
Conditions were probably "worse than they looked," as athletes know can be the case; the winds were strong enough to knock over a bunch of the wind meters (as well as the medal stand banners, one of which landed on the nose of a volunteer, sending her to the hospital; she is okay). After having rescheduled almost the entire finals races several times, it turned out to have been a good call.
An hour after the racing ended, Matt Smith of FISA was holding a press conference, and the weather was perfect; he noted that "we hope that the weather predicted for one o'clock materializes." Sure enough it did; at 1:13pm, a huge squall came through, whipping the course into white caps and then rolling waves, which remained for the rest of the afternoon. It wasn't Athens-heats windy, but it was close.
Among the US crews racing today, the US women's eight finished third of three in the lightly-subscribed event; the crew was clearly pained by the result, but did their best at the medals ceremony, especially given that, as is the case with the last event of the regatta, they were kept up there for the entire closing ceremony. "We knew we’d be down off the start," coxswain Christine Devlin said. "We had these moves at the 500 and 1,000 meter marks that we thought were going to get it. But, (Germany and Romania) brought their 'A' games, and they went above and beyond what I think we could have gone. They rowed their hearts out, and I don’t think we could have gone any harder. So, no disappointment. We put it all out there, and they were just the better crews."
The US women's double placed 10th overall, which turns out to be the best US W2x finish ever. "It’s not the strongest boat out there compared to the others in the field, but they just rowed nicely and did whatever they could to stay in the game," said coach Guenter Beutter. "All the moves in the middle of the race were on target. They gained every move. The result was more than I expected."
The US men's quad also finished tenth; "they moved really well the third 500, and we thought they might even be able to get to second in the B final," Beutter said. "They then got stuck a little bit, and of course, the others made a countermove, and it went all the way to the line and they got fourth. Overall, they did a really good job."
Finally, the US men's pair placed eight overall with a second place finish in the petite final. Coming off the line in fourth, the crew ground their way up to contend with Bulgaria for first, but the Bulgarian crew gave no quarter in the closing meters. The crew seemed to get a little better with each race during the regatta, and hopefully learned something they can count on in in the future.
An important piece of the puzzle for the pre-Olympic Junior World Champs is its status as the official test event for the subsequent Olympics; according to FISA President Denis Oswald, and everyone's observations during the week, it seemed that a lot was learned and there is much to do, but on the whole the British rowing folks are well ahead of where most Olympic rowing venues are one year ahead of the Games. A lot of this is due to the robust community of rowers volunteering for the Olympics; the "Smurf" volunteer corps are actually from among the cream of British community.
We'll leave the last word to the medaling athletes from Sunday afternoon; I hope you have enjoyed our coverage.
Vlad-Dragos Aicoboae, Romania,
It's a beautiful sensation. We were very strong today, and we led from start to finish. I don't know how I am going to celebrate. I am looking forward to seeing my family in Romania on Thursday.
Alejandro Fernandez Lomba, Spain
(On being the slowest qualifier and the only team to come through the reps): We were determined to have a very quick start and to be in the front. Before the race we watched the French men's pair winning the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000 and that was our inspiration.
Alexandros Louloudis, Greece
It was a bad start, and the weather did not help us at all, but in our last 500 meters we found our balance and gave it all we had.
Milda Valciukaite, Lithuania
The start was good as always. In the middle of the race we were down on the field. We just went for a good finish then. We wanted to win a medal and tried. It is our first medal.
Julia Leiding, Germany
Unbelievable race, it was incredible. Around 1200 meters I thought it might be possible that we could get a medal and that was a great feeling. I hoped wo tin a medal of an color so I am happy with silver.
Constanze Sydow, Germany
It was the best race of our competition. We have only been rowing together for two and half months, but we have been training every day for the last four weeks. Before then Julia had to drive seven hours a day to train with me. (On trying to get past the Lithuanians): We tried. They were just too strong.
Daphne Socha, France
(On winning a medal for the second time): It is wonderful we have only rowed together for three weeks since July. We rowed on the river a lot. We have worked and worked every day for the final. It is our first race together and it is in a World Championship.
Elodie Ravera-Scaramozzino, France
It was a very hard race but we did our best with every stroke. I am looking forward to next year's Championship very much.
Denis Sittel, Germany
It was a hard race. We did not start very well and we had to push hard. We feel great (about the medal). It's awesome. The championships have been very emotional for us. At the last 300 meters we knew we would make it.
Alberic Cormerais, France
I really wanted to beat the Germans, but once again they were better than us. Last year we were five seconds behind so we are getting closer. In the semifinal we were behind, and today we were half a length in front. It was the opposite of yesterday. In the middle 1000 they were just better than us. We couldn't get back on the in the last 500. We were on training camp for one month, so now we can relax and party.
Adam Sterback, Czech Republic
It was very difficult in lane one because the waves were very big, and it was hard to see how we were performing against Slovenia and Switzerland.
Martin Slavik, Czech Republic
We knew before we started that France and Germany would be very hard to beat, so we were determined to keep up with them, and that was our race plan.
Elisabeta Lipa, President of the Romanian federation
I am very happy for these young boys. They will be treated like small heroes (when they get home). This is very good for us. We have a young generation which is very good in rowing. In the senior it is so and so. (About Rio 2016): Maybe there are many strong men for the Olympics. For next year we have strong women in the pairs and the doubles.
Marco Calamaro, Italy
We thought we had a start for this year because we are more experienced and our determination was the key. But Romania rowed a good race. We knew the Romanians were the strong enemy. The friendship in our team is our strength, but when you have more ambition, then silver is not enough. Our mission is our strength.
Raffael Polzella, Italian coach
We have harmony in our team and they are all friends. They row for pleasure together. They are our future.
Finn Schroeder, Germany
Good feeling to go into the race after the semifinal yesterday, which we won. Today we did not really find our rhythm, but we got bronze. The start was difficult because of the wind from the left side, very difficult. But this wind hurts everybody. I think only New Zealand had a little bit advantage because they were on the left side, but New Zealand were behind us. We are very proud. A medal at the junior championships is a great thing.
Anne Beenkin, Germany
It does not seem real right now. I have never been that nervous before and I was worried navigating through the buoys with the waves. I did not see Italy at all. I was just watching Ireland because she had the fastest time.
Holly Nixon, Ireland
I have been training for this for about five years now, and everybody wants to do well. Ireland has not won a world medal in a long time so I took it on my shoulders to get it for them, and that is what I did. Maybe I will get gold at under-23. These rowers will be around with me and as a group we will be growing up together. The crosswind was so strong out there, and an advantage to anyone who is used to rough conditions, and that was probably to my advantage. I ran out of strength in my right arm.
Elza Gulbe, Latvia
It was a very hard race because it was very windy, but I was very happy with my performance.
Stephan Riemekasten, Germany
After the World Championships last year in the double sculls, this was much harder. I need to be more focused. Of course I was more excited, so I was really happy to have that behind me. I know I am a quick starter, so I gave everything at the beginning. After I saw that I was first after the first 500 meters, I knew that on one would catch me. I just do the thing I do. I was over for me at 1500 meters. I heard the hymn (at the women's single medal ceremony) when I arrived at the finish so I knew Anne had won. We had trained together for the last five week, and I am happy that she won, too. Felix Bach last year. He was a big man, and looks a bit differently to me, so I am really happy to have this medal.
Alexandros Dafnis, Greece
It is very good to win a medal. It is the first medal for me and my first year in single sculls. Last year I was in the quad but I knew I could be strong on my own. I have only been training in the single for six months. I did not anticipate winning a medal because I am younger than the other boys, but I wanted to believe I could. My goal is to be in Rio but I do not know yet which boat.
Andrii Mykhailov, Ukraine
This is a record for my country. My country never got medals in single sculls. I think the best was 1995 when we got fourth place. My race plan was good, but the last 500 to 250 meters was very hard.
Nadine Seehaus, Germany
(On having no qualifying heats) We were all so nervous because we did not know about the others team, and that made us very scared, especially because we have only been rowing together for five weeks. We had intended to start more effectively, but that did not happen. We were trailing until 700 meters before the finish line, then we just gave it our all.
Ana-Marie Simion, Romania
It was a very enjoyable race for us, although we would have preferred the weather to be better. Although we have only rowed together for two months, we are a very close team.
Georgia Ratcliff, USA
It was really tough waiting from Thursday to row again. I wish we had one or two more races, but this is such a big scale regatta and juniors are not used to that. I think it was windy but I was just so focused on getting through the race, so it did not really hit me.
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