Finals day at the Junior Rowing World Championships on the Tokyo 2020 rowing course saw a steady stream of intense and dramatic racing, with several massive lead and place changes, upsets, and a pretty successful debut of the course overall.
After winning seven medals at the 2018 Junior Worlds, the two medals for the US this year made for a lean finals day, albeit one that found the US men's eight on the medals dock during the long speeches at the end of the regatta, which is always a good thing; and a bronze medal for Katelin Gildersleeve in the women's single, only the third-ever medal in the event for the US.
In the men's eight, Germany and the US turned it into a two-boat race for the lead; a huge push by Germany in the middle third of the race put them ahead for good, with the US in game pursuit fairly well clear of the field.
"We had a really great race in the final today and it capped off a week where every race was an improvement on the last," US five seat Ian Burnett. "I would say that the reason we as a crew were in a position to win a medal and ended up making that happen is our attack mentality. We always attacked every race piece from the first stroke, and in the final the Germans and we stayed out in front of the pack because of our willingness to row with total abandon from the beginning."
"Today's race was probably one of the best races that we could have put together," stroke Harrison Schofield said. "We tried to get out in front right at the beginning, tried to stay with the top crews. For me at least, I thought it was everything that we had and just like the perfect piece that we could have put together at the end of the day. The Germans just had a great, great race; a more powerful crew, but I'm very proud of everything this crew accomplished this whole summer."
"It means a lot; it's a really hard thing to do," John Ozaeta said. "There are a lot of quality crews out here, and I think this just really represents all of the work we put in this summer and through our entire rowing careers to get us all to this point. To win a medal for your country at the world championships is, at the end of the day, something to be proud of."
"I'm incredibly proud of the way the group came together over the course of the summer and the regatta," men's eight coach Jesse Foglia said. "I think today was a capstone for what has been a very focused and challenging campaign where I challenged them to be the best version of themselves at every turn. Credit needs to go out to each of their coaches back at hom,e as they are the ones that have created the foundation that we built upon over the summer.
"Cleary hats off to the Germans for demonstrating that they were the fastest crew on the course, but there are no easy medals from a World Championship and we feel satisfied knowing we had the chance to measure ourselves against such a strong field."
Gildersleeve made a challenge at the silver medal position several times during the race, and then as the finish line approached dug in to pull away with the three leaders for bronze.
"I was just excited to get another shot out there and see what happened," Gildersleeve said. "You never know what to expect, and all I could do was just keep my head in the boat and finish as fast as I could. It's amazing. I can't wait to come back to another world championship. It's just the beginning for me. It's great to do this as a junior, but I can't wait for what's ahead."
The US men's pair finished off the regatta with a win in the B final with a solid row in which they led almost from start to finish.
"Our coach told us to start up, so we went off as hard as we could, we were sitting second until about 500 in, then we got through Switzerland and led the rest of the way," bow seat Adam Campain said. "The last 250 was kind of scary because of Denmark, but we were able to hold them off; it was great.
"We worked on getting a good start, and it definitely paid off toward the end; it was definitely our best race of the regatta," said stroke David Edington. "We felt we performed really well together, especially after training together for only a month.
"I think the guys are pretty pleased," coach Brian deRegt said. "They hadn't rowed together before we put them in a pair at camp, and I think it's tough to race a semifinal hard, with a disappointing outcome, to then turn it around for the B final and put together the most complete piece of the summer. I'm proud of how far they've come, how they represented themselves this summer, and how they raced this week."
The US women's double of Delaney Evans and Taylor English placed third in the B final for ninth overall; the crew was disappointed but unbowed.
"Taylor and I fell short of the A Final; this is most definitely not where we wanted to land, but gave it everything we had to get this far," Evans said. "We are pretty disappointed, but beyond thankful for the opportunity to compete at this high level. We have so much overwhelming support from the USRowing staff, friends and family back home. I am beyond blessed to have coaches like Dr.Sharis and Jamie Whalen that dedicate so much of their time to help us accomplish our goals.
This outcome won't stop me from trying again, and making the podium will always be a goal of mine. This challenging opportunity has helped me grow as an athlete, and has motivated me even more. My double partner Taylor gave it everything she had, I wouldn't have wanted to take this journey with anyone else. She is an amazing athlete who has inspired me to be my best. Win or lose we did it together."
Coach Jamie Whalen looked back over the week and summer after the racing.
"We were disappointed never to achieve the speed here that we were finding in practice back home, but we're very proud of the way we battled with heat winner Great Britain after being behind them by 2.6 seconds in the semi. Coming in ahead of them by .4 seconds gave us ninth place overall and showed we were finally starting to figure things out," he said. "We are very grateful to the local organizing committee and all the people who made this Jr. Worlds in Tokyo possible. It has been very exciting and we have felt very welcome by the people of Japan. We are also very grateful to USRowing and all the staff that support the USJNT. We had a great group for this event. And of course we are finally grateful to all our friends and family back home who have been supportive of our rowing and coaching all these years."
In the end, Germany led the medals table with 12 medals total including five golds, followed by China, and Italy.
Notes from the Course
After the Dutch win in the women's double – well, arguably before the Dutch win in the women's double, as I am pretty sure the crew was not over the line before the first fan was airborne – a cadre of Dutch fans (likely teammates) went flying into the water to swim out to the crew. It's the Dutch way.
Meanwhile, some of the stragglers got bopped by the Greek double as they came over the line; the full sequence starts here.
As the Cyprus and US M1x were having a conversation just beyond the finish line, fish were eavesdropping on them jumping out of the water.
The athletes brought the excitement, the heat wave brought the heat, and the fans brought the umbrellas.
The docks were too hot to walk on.
The German men's eight had a flag big enough to go behind almost all of them, but the members of the US crew each got their own flag.
We were the only photographers to get the German cox toss, which they did during the speeches.
The camera van looked like Guido from Cars.
I heart rowing.
Which is more representative of rowing for you?
Don't be sad it is over, be glad it happened...