USA BLM2- with the gold Hay (left) has chased for 4 years and Sass (right) for 2.
After 4 days of racing, we are down to the three-day weekend of finals at these combined U19/U23 Championships--still some sorting and Semi-ing left to be done for the U19s, but the U23 Finals are set, and the first batch of medal races ran today.
That puts the U23 news--and the three medals the USA won today--up top here.
Below the U23 recap, we will get into the ecstasy and agony of the U19 Reps and Quarterfinals, where the U19 Men's Eight, Four, and Double raced well and moved on, but other crews were knocked out of the medal contention by, yes, agonizingly small margins, particularly the U19 Men's Coxed Four and single sculler Charles Boldt.
Gold, Silver, & Bronze for USA U23s
The US claimed one of each color in the medals department, starting with a bronze in the first A Final for the Women's Coxed Four, then a silver in the Men's Coxed Four, and then a gold for the Light Men's Pair of Nathaniel Sass and Collin Hay.
USA BLM2- holding off the 'Azzurri' for the win
Sass and Hay had just two races here, so we haven't mentioned them since they went direct to their A Final back on Tuesday morning, but they made the most of this second one: tracking down the hometown Italian favorites--who had beaten them in the heat--and then building on their lead throughout the second 1000.
Winning a U23 Worlds title is pretty sweet, but against an Italian crew? in Italy? in a lightweight race against a nation of true LWT masters? and holding on to do so even as the Italians sprinted somewhere north of 46 strokes per minute? "Inestimabile!" as the locals might say.
And the silver medallists even paid them the compliment of calling the the USA's last 250m "Italian" in this interview:
All of that, plus the fact that Sass and Hay finished just off the podium in this event last year, made it a pretty sweet win for the US pair, and they collapsed as much in disbelief as exhaustion--and maybe even relief--at the finish.
"We had a pretty good idea of what to expect from the heats," said Hay, who also made the final of the BLM2- in 2019 and finished 6th that time, with Matthew Marchiony. "Everyone really likes to gun that first 500, but we also knew our strength was our base pace. We figured we would just rev up that first 500 a bit and really get everyone sweating that we're with them early on."
"After our start sequence, maybe 400 or so in, I turned around and saw we almost have contact with Italy and good overlap with Chile. We stayed pretty quiet and just hammered out our base pace until around the 1k mark. We had pulled up even for first at that point, and that's when things really started to look good. It was basically a race we knew we could win with our 3rd 500."
"We saw Italy launch their sprint early, and tactically I would have made the same decision, so it wasn't much of a surprise. We tried to 'sprint' but really just wanted to make it long and strong as opposed to flailing around and risking catching a buoy or digging the blade too deep. It ended up being just enough to hold them off. We were essentially running on empty with our last three strokes."
"Very good race though, and some serious talent from those younger guys from Italy. Took me a good four years, they almost had it on their first."
For the three Princeton guys and one Syracuse guy in the U23 Four with their Northeastern Coxswain William Dempsey, the race was all about staying in the race long enough to let loose at the end.
With GB's four setting a World Best Time pace in the front, that was no easy task for Erik Spinka, Nathan Phelps, Benjamin Dukes (the Syracuse guy) and Zachary Vachal--but they worked their way from 5th to 4th to 3rd, before finally overtaking the Italians to snatch the silver.
"Our race plan going in was to be internal," said strokeman Erik Spinka. "We learned from last year--or at least myself and our coach Pat Lapage learned this--that everyone goes flying in the first 1k of the race."
"Instead, we stuck to what we have been doing all week: having a quick first 1k to keep us in the race, but not burning all of our matches too soon. Coming across the 1k, we all took a step and, from there, we held onto Italy, and eventually we were able to come through them for our silver medal. It felt incredible being side by side with them, going down to the line."
For Spinka, silver is one step up from the bronze he earned last year in this same event, which the Italians had won.
As for GB's World Best Time, the Lago's warm water and the Varese tailwind pushed them close to breaking six minutes (6:02.9), pretty close to decent time for a four without a coxswain; USA's time was 6:06.1, 1.8 seconds ahead of the Italians.
It was one of seven "WBT's" set in the U23 A Finals.
That World's Best Time on Home Waters Feeling: ITA BLW2-
The Women's Coxed Four also required a WBT--Australia's 6:44--to win it, and both Italy in second and the USA in third had to beat the old mark of 6:52 to medal.
The US women, with row2k's latest "In the Driver's Seat" guest Caroline Ricksen at the controls, did all of their work in the middle thousand: patiently working through the field and even getting into a back-and-forth with Italy for the silver before taking bronze in the closing sprint that put them under the old WBT.
"It was a gutsy middle 1000 from the crew," said coach Asiya Mahmud, and it followed on the heels of an equally gutsy decision to change the crew's lineup mid-regatta:
"After the preliminary I knew we needed to push the field if we wanted to make the podium. Glad they were up to the challenge," said Mahmud.
For the final, the crew was completely flipped: stroke Angela Szabo had been in bow, 3-seat Greta Filor in 2; 2-seat Elena Collier-Hezel in 3, and the first (rower) across the finish line for the bronze, Katherine Kelly, had stroked the boat for pretty much the whole summer. Szabo--who stroked the Cal 1V this spring--had only sat up front with this crew for one practice during selection camp, but Mahmud had a feeling about Szabo in stroke:
"In the back of my head, knowing Angela stroked for Cal, I knew she might give the whole boat the opportunity to just be more dialed in and follow her lead. I thought we had nothing to lose."
"Overall I'm happy with how they handled camp and changes once we arrived in Varese," said Mahmud. "The opportunity to compete at this level is something they'll never forget!"
Coxswain Caroline Ricksen agreed:
"Racing down the course with this crew one last time was so much fun," she said.
"After our preliminary race, we knew we had another gear to step into. Off the line we could immediately feel the energy of all of the other crews - it was fast and the world was ready to go. We focused on our race plan and executing what we knew how to do. If we could hit our max boat speed and have an internal race, we knew we would be proud of the result. And that's exactly what happened."
"It felt amazing to cross the line with this crew and get a bronze medal. It was hard, it was a close one, but it was so much fun."
Harrison Cruises To A Final in BM1x
Maybe it is just some Shark Week confidence, but Isaiah Harrison made qualifying for the A Final look pretty easy. He sculled along at a pretty tame 30 strokes a minute to keep himself in third, and on track, behind Australian Cormac Kennedy-Leverett and Frenchman Romain Harat.
"I was really satisfied with the race today," he told row2k. "Going into the regatta I had no idea how I would place, so I'm just really grateful to be racing in the A Final.
USA BM1x, Isaiah Harrison
"Plan for tomorrow: put the blades in the water and pull. It's not really a complicated sport--just go from point A to point B and don't stop till the whooter sounds."
The kid has it figured so far, for sure, though--and without taking anything away from Harrison's performances here all week--he did luck into the better Semi. The other Semi featured, in order of finish: one of last years U23 finalists (Germany's Jonas Gelsen), last year's U23 M1x champ (Bulgaria's Emil Neykov), an Olympic single sculler (Italy's Gennaro Di Mauro), and the fourth place "ticket" to the B Final went to GB's Callum Dixon, a sculler who finished just off the podium at World Cup I this year.
Harrison did finish ahead of both Di Mauro and Dixon in earlier rounds, but not having to see them at this stage, when we are really down to brass tacks, was fortunate. He also saw Neykov in his Quarterfinal, so only Gelsen will be a complete unknown, for Harrison at least, in the final on Saturday.
Rounding Up The Rest of U23 Finals
The US had seven U23 crews in A Finals today, but the other four did not make the podium. The U23 Light Men's Quad came the closest, with an aggressive pursuit of Italy, Germany, and France, but was just out of the medals in fourth.
The Light Women's Quad was also fourth, the Light Women's Pair took 5th, and the women of @usa_u23_quad took 6th.
U19s: Equal Measures of Ecstasy and Agony...
Six U19 crews had the next round in their sights on Friday, but only half of them got there: the Men's Eight to the A Final and the Men's Four and Men's Double to their Saturday Semi round. The other three did not make it through: the Women's pair came 5th in their Rep and head to the B Final, Charles Boldt was less than a second behind Bulgaria's Ivan Yordanov in his Quarterfinal and now goes to the C/D Semis, and the Men's Coxed Four, nipped for 4th place in their Rep, is done altogether. With only 7 entries in the Coxed Four, there is no one left for the US crew to race since they did not make the the top 6 for the A Final.
The JM2x's row to advance was exciting, and the effort that Nikhil Ramaraju and Tristan Wakefield put into catching Ireland in the last 500 moved them all the way up onto 2nd ahead of Croatia as well.
USA JM2x playing though Croatia (3rd) and Ireland (4th)
For the U19 Eight, though, their race in today's Rep was all about getting some mojo back, which the crew did with an outright win. The US crew has three returning gold medalists aboard from the 2021 eight, so there is only one place they wanted to be today: in front.
The crew's coach, Eric Gehrke, kept the Rep win in perspective, as part of a larger process:
"We are happy with the progress through the rep today. We learned a lot from our mindsets in the heats, and just wanted to come into today rowing like ourselves-- aggressive, enjoying every moment, and sending the puddles. We look forward to continue progressing in our practices before Sunday and then on Sunday as well."
USA JM8+ on the lead
The JM8+ field is now set for Sunday's showdown: USA and Italy advancing today to meet Germany, Great Britain, France, and China.
...And The Narrow Margin Between The Two
It was just 0.4 seconds over 3rd place Croatia that put the U19 Men's Four on the joyful side of the morning, and the finish was so tight that Serbia and the US crew were given the same time to the hundredth of a second (6:13.59) even though Serbia is a touch ahead in the photofinish.
Bowman Davis Schroeder called it a good race, as well he might after prevailing to move on:
"It felt good to improve off our heat and are looking to gain speed as we progress through to the semis. We are happy about the result, but are excited to see how fast we can go in the next couple days."
USA JM4-, photo-finishing to advance
For coach Cary Wasserman, who called the finish--justly--"insane," this effort and poise was something he felt the crew had in them:
"This is a crew that is determined to keep getting faster. They are talented racers and we knew they'd need to find extra speed in today's rep to advance."
"When we saw that we'd be racing Serbia and Croatia, we knew that it would be close, but couldn't have imagined a closer finish than what transpired. That was a race they'll remember for the rest of their lives. I'm extremely excited for them and hope they'll have another great one again tomorrow in the semi."
The JM4- will be one of five U19 crews racing semis on Saturday--along with both U19 Quads, the JM2x and Olivia Petri in the JW1x--all looking to join the four US crews already through to Sunday's U19 medal round.
Saturday, with no weather changes (as yet) will again go all U19s first--which includes C/D Semis for the US JM1x and JW2x in addition to 5 A/B Semi crews--then it will be time to wrap up the U23 racing.
The US only has four A Finals tomorrow, but they will be good ones: the Women's Eight and Four--where the USA will be heavy favorites--and then the Men's Single and the Men's Eight, where medals are a very strong possibility.
Once again, the morning U19 racing will be in the books by 5 am or so Eastern, so you can head right to results--listed by event under the Results tab--here on the World Rowing site...or you can look for the Daily Results Summary when we get it and put it up on the row2k results page later in the day. The U23 B Finals start (or started!) at 7:30 am Eastern, and these are the Eastern times for those A Finals
- 8:56 am - U23 Women's Four
- 9:36 am - U23 Women's Eight
- 9:44 am - U23 Men's Single
- 10:00 am - U23 Men's Eight
EDITOR'S NOTE - The schedule was updated at 4:30pm EDT, new timetable here.
Notes from the Course
- Popping Smoke: An exuberant duo of Italians (if that is not redundant) were lighting off smoke flares to celebrate each of the three Italian U23 golds medals, so there was colorful smoke wafting past the flags at the podium during the anthem. We couldn't spot them for a photo from the medal photo media scrum, but hey, that's why you bring a junior photographer along, to chase these sort of shots down.
- Have Meme, Will Travel: Memes are definitely the universal language now; the stakeboat kids were watching a video while waiting for the boats to arrive to take everyone back to the venue, and were chattering in Italian before all of them yelled said, 'Let's goooooo!'
- "Sorry about that" - the exciting finishes were tricky for the commentary team, who had to walk back a few premature "reads" of the finish order...which is probably fine if you are just chatting to folks following along at home, but when your commentary goes out in real-time on the loudspeakers at the venue, and you've caused the wrong folks to cheer a non-win, it is very much less than fine. (Also, best not to say racing is over and then realize, out loud, that there is one more race to go..."sorry about that.")
And, Now, We Can Shove for Finals Day