Today was like any other Saturday at a Junior World Championships – except it was a Friday. If you are just starting to follow the racing as the weekend approaches, the most important thing to know is that the whole regatta has been shifted forward one day due to forecasted high winds starting tomorrow afternoon, so the traditional Sunday finals kick in tomorrow morning. (I know this isn't an exciting lead to our report, but it's pretty critical information.
For stateside rowing fans, perhaps the next most important thing to know is that the US crews emerged from the compressed three-days-of-racing-done-in-two-days (and 30 minutes counting the six races on Wednesday morning) heats/reps/quarters/semis calendar with a total of seven boats in the A final, the most ever at a junior world championships.
Today the women's quad and men's four joined the ranks of finalists thanks to clear assessments of their strengths and weaknesses that results in tweaks to their race plans that came through in the semis.
In the women's quad, the crew went with bread and butter approach, focusing on their base speed in the middle of the race. The crew reached 500 down in third, but by the 1000 was in second, and kept chugging to place second behind Germany and ahead of fellow qualifier France.
"Yesterday was a bit of a struggle," stroke Emily Kallfelz told USRowing. "The race plan that we had decided on, we didn’t really execute very well. Today, we decided to get back into our normal groove of having a strong base. Our sprint isn’t super great, so we want to make sure that our base is very good, so when we get to the end of the race, people can’t sprint to hard on us. I think we really executed well on that today."
"Yesterday, we obviously weren’t on the best level possible, but today, we had a good race, a good rhythm," said coach Guenter Beutter. "We re-established a good rhythm, a good row compared to yesterday when we were basically falling apart. They were really well connected, and I think they executed the race plan perfectly.
"We’re focusing on recovery right now and making sure that everybody is getting as fit as possible. Tomorrow, we’ll talk the race plan over and focus a little more on a strong third 500."
The men's four had to count on their sprint to escape from a tight four-boat brawl over the three qualifying spots, sprinting through Serbia in the final 500 to take third. Serbia had led the race for over 1000 meters, but as they faltered, the US crew took their shot and came up with the spot in the A final.
"I think between now and tomorrow, we’re really just going to focus on cleaning up our blade work in the first 750 and mentally getting ready for our move," three-seat Benjamin Cohen said. "We really want to change the way we’re approaching the race, so instead of thinking of it as 500s, we’re thinking of it as 750-500-750 and visualizing what that is going to be like racing tomorrow. We’re really excited."
"I think this year they were much better prepared for this experience," said coach Nick D’Antoni. "That semifinal, we knew was going to be really tough, but I think being through the ringer down here, they were ready for primetime. In this event, the medals are wide open. Maybe one crew has been able to separate themselves definitively, but all the other medals are up for grabs, and we can be in contention. I’m certainly happy to see them progress and overcome a little bit of adversity. Last year, we were behind the learning curve, and this year we are a little bit ahead."
They join the women's pair, women's four, men's coxed four, women's eight, and men's eight as the US crews with a shot at medals tomorrow.
Semifinals day is often the toughest day of the regatta, but for Eliza Kallfelz, it had to be one of the tougher days of her (admittedly short) rowing career after she flipped in the second 500 of her race (joining Andrew Campbell in the ranks of young US scullers who flipped at world championship regatta in the past 12 months, whew). Obviously her shot at the A final was over, but the tricky part is that Kallfelz tried to refuse assistance from officials so she could climb back in the boat on her own and finish the race so at least she could qualify for the B final, but the officials would not allow it since the regatta was on tight centers and the next race was already lining up at the start.
As a result, the US delegation filed a request that she be allowed to race in the B final; the request was granted, so she will get another shot at a full pull early tomorrow.
For the benefit of athletes who are hoping and working hard for the chance of racing here next year, I'll keep the conditions updates coming; today a direct tail resulted in really nice conditions for most of the morning, and then the same cross-tail from the port side kicked in, creating some bumps again for the C/D finals at the end of the program.
Another Schedule Change
It is also worth noting that the Saturday (formerly Sunday) schedule has been compressed as well, with the B finals being raced on five minute centers, and the A finals on 13 minute centers. The last race will happen at 12:06 PM, so you'll want to be following along not just 24 hours before you might have thought, but more like 25 hours earlier.
Notes from the CourseToday's Rowing News of the Odd included an article that puts Britain at "peak selfie;" rowing may be there as well given that photographers on the officials launches are sporting selfie sticks The US men's four stroke helped run a decent sprint today, but his warmup up at the start is pretty intense as well, involving some serious chest-beating. You've probably had enough of hearing that the course is right in the heart of the city, but I'll keep at it – in addition to the Coconut drink stand directly under the tower, there is a soccer field and a dog park across the street (you could hear dogs getting into tiffs from the line), and even a playground inside the officials' area.