With the Americans using the Poznan World Cup as part of the 2022 Selection procedures, a full fleet of sixteen US crews hit this stop of the circuit to test their speed and, in the case of the 7 NSR winners from earlier this year, possibly sew up a spot on the World Championship roster.
Of those seven, only the Men's Double missed the top 6 standard to qualify: the Women's Double, the Men's and Women's Pairs, both Light Doubles, and Ben Davison in the Men's Single all earned the right to declare for their event by virtue of making the A Final on Saturday--and they have until Thursday, June 30 to make that decision--so their racing on finals day was pure gravy, and of course, a shot at some hardware.
Before we get into the hardware--and it was a solid haul to be sure--it is worth noting that one of the few boat classes without Americans in Poland was, oddly enough, the Eights. In perhaps the surest sign yet that the US selection system has pivoted hard in the direction of smaller boats and the, potentially, greater number of Olympic medals on offer down the road in Paris and Los Angeles if the top Americans are not concentrated in the big boats. (The quads were also American-less, and US para-rowers did not make the trip, either).
Instead, the American athletes from the two selection camps raced in the Men's and Women's Fours, or as USA2 entries in the pairs and doubles.
In all the US put 11 crews into A finals, and won two golds--in the LW1x and the LW2x--a silver by one of the two Women's Pairs to make the final, a bronze by one of the two Women's Doubles to make the final, a bronze in the Men's Single, and bronze in both the USA1 M2- and the M4- for a total of 7.
USA LW 1x - Gold
The US presence on the podium started on Saturday, in the first round of A Finals, when Mary Jones Nabel won her second World Cup gold in as many tries this season in the Light Women's Single, and cemented her lead on the overall World Cup title in her event with just one World Cup left on the 2022 schedule.
USA LW1x: Mary Jones Nabel
As she did 3 weeks ago in Belgrade, Jones Nabel turned in the fastest 2nd 500 in the field and used the middle thousand to take command of the race. Here in Poznan, it was Germany's Mary-Louise Drager who got overhauled by Jones Nabel's base speed, as the American beat fully 5 different scullers than those she faced down in the 1st World Cup.
USA LW 2x - Gold
For the Tokyo 202One combo of Michelle Sechser and Molly Reckford, racing the LW2x for a second season together has been more fun than their campaign to qualify for the Games last year, and the duo keeps finding more speed.
"It was great to get back out on the race course with Molly this weekend and test our speed," said Sechser afterwards.
USA LW2x: Michelle Sechser & Molly Reckford
"Poznan threw some tricky conditions but training at Mercer prepared us well. It feels fantastic to win and come away goals of what we will work on as we prepare for World Championships. Last year, having our first year together as a crew be the Olympic year, and with needing to get the boat qualified, made for some pretty heavy pressure. It was a blast to get to race and just experience the love of racing."
Reckford actually called the Poznan course a "dodgeball game" when she spoke to WorldRowing.com after the race , saying: "The Poznan course is great, it looks like a dodgeball game with so many things thrown at you, crosswind, tail wind, choppy waters, so we really had to understand the course. But it's great."
While those conditions did not slow down Sechser and Reckford, the swirling wind and even the appearance of the dreaded "cross cross" wind (to quote, well, Martin Cross himself) did affect some of the later races, with the high lanes perhaps having an edge in the eights finals and the water maybe costing the Dutch W4x a silver when a crab in the final strokes dropped them from 2nd to 3rd.
Sweeps: Silver for W2-, Bronze for M2- & M4-
The US Women put two pairs into the A Final, with NSR winner's Claire Collins and Maddie Wanamaker taking silver behind the Dutch. The Irish pair edged USA2--Allyson Baker and Regina Salmons--off the podium. All four Americans raced in Tokyo and are competing in their second quadrennial.
"It was great to get to the podium and have some very fun racing this weekend! It was a sign to us that we are headed in the right direction and we have got work to do," Collins said after the race.
USA1 W2-: Claire Collins & Maddie Wanamaker
"It was exciting to do well in our first international race of this new Olympic cycle," Wanamaker said. "Obviously it's disappointing to lead for most of the race and bobble in the last 200m, but we've gotten a good sense of what we're capable of and head back to Princeton knowing what we need to work on."
In the Men's Pairs, Michael Grady and Justin Best held off Japan for the bronze. The new look Kiwi pair of Thomas Mackintosh and Matt McDonald took the win, with the Dutch in 2nd.
USA1 M2-: Michael Grady & Justin Best
"I think our goal for this competition was to get a little better each race and see where we land," said Grady. "I think we mostly executed on our goal. Sure enough we found some fast competition here and realize where we stand for the coming season. Looking forward to the rest of the year!"
His partner, bow man Best, agreed: "It's great to be racing internationally again. This was a good learning experience we found some positives and some negatives about us as a committed combination. We're excited to see exactly what Josy has for the grand scheme of things but also excited to get back to training with Mike and Skip at California Rowing Club. It was really successful day for all the rowers at California; go CRC and go USA!"
Their CRC teammates in the four, racing with perhaps the least experience as a combination that came out of the post-NSR Men's Selection Camp in Sacramento, came through the repechage and outduelled China for the bronze, behind Australia and the Netherlands.
USA M4-: Pieter Quinton, Michael Knippe, Chris Carlson, and Andrew Gaard
Pieter Quinton, Chris Carlson, Michael Knippen and bowmman Andrew Gaard all train in Mike Teti's California Rowing Club group, and were coached here in Poznan by Tom Terhaar while Teti stayed home with the rest of the squad. With six Olympic eights medals between those two coaches, the crew was in good hands throughout, whew.
1st M1x Medal since 2011
Ben Davison, another CRC athlete, has been back in the 1x this season and followed up his NSR win back home in March with a pretty historic bronze here. The US does not podium often in the Men's 1x at the senior Worlds level--at least one observer thinks the US M1x medal drought dates back to 2011--and Davison rowed a patient race to see off Denmark's Bastian Secher and take third behind Melvin Twellaar (NED) and Mattieu Androdias (FRA).
USA M1x: Ben Davison
The gold and silver medals were a flip from Tokyo 202One, when the two faced off in the M2x, and Androdias had won the gold with partner Hugo Boucheron ahead of the Dutch. Boucheron just missed the A Final in the M1x here. The skip ahead to gold earned Twellaar just the 3rd gold ever for a Dutchman in the single, according to Daniel Spring.
Davison, who had a good look at Twellaar in his semi, where the two took the top 2 transfer spots, was pleased with the result of his regatta:
"It was a solid race for me today I think," said Davison. "I still have plenty of ground to make up but it was a decent start. Coming into the World Cup we really had no idea how I matched up against the top guys so we were just learning as the week went on.
"It has been a new experience for me preparing to race the single at the senior level, but my coaches, Mike Teti and Skip Kielt, have been instrumental in helping guide me through the process and keep me on the right track. Next I will be racing the single at Henley then heading back to California Rowing Club in Oakland to decide what the next steps will be."
Davison being in the single after racing at Tokyo in the Eight was a big talking point, especially in comparison to Twellaar and Androdias, who are coming into the single this year from Dutch and French Olympic Doubles. Certainly, there is a history of American scullers coming out of the Eight post Olympics (Andy Sudduth in 1985, Jamie Koven in 1997, Wyatt Allen in 2005), but Davison started out as a sculler, racing the single at both the Junior and U23 level--and he even won this little race they have in Boston every fall--so he does know a thing or two about the single, for sure.
Bronze for New USA W2x
In the Women's Double, it was bronze as well for Sophia Vitas and Kara Kohler, with Kohler perhaps the most notable other Tokyo Olympian changing boat classes on the US Squad after racing Tokyo as the W1x.
USA W2x on podium with IRL and NED: Sophia Vitas & Kara Kohler
Their coach at the Texas Rowing Center, Peter Mansfeld, told row2k back in April that the tight racing at the NSR in the 2x had taught this new combination about racing together, and Kohler and Vitas showed those skills in Poznan. They paced the Dutch who won the event today in the heat, won their semi outright, and emerged from a heated three-boat battle with Ireland and China to medal just behind the Irish.
The USA2 combo of Emily Delleman and Emily Kallfelz also made the A Final, coming out of the Women's Selection Camp to take 5th.
With Kohler and Vitas doing well in the double, the W1x is likely headed to Trials later this year. In Poznan, Maggie Fellows--who took 5th in the W1x at the March NSR--made the semis and then took 9th over all with her finish in the B Final. Two of the other finalists from the NSR raced in Poznan as well: Delleman in the W2x, and Kristi Wagner, who made the Women's Four at the Selection Camp and took 4th with that crew today--touching out New Zealand but missing the podium, which went Australia, Netherlands, Ireland in the W4-.
Kohler and Vitas's club mates from Texas, Zach Heese and Jasper Liu, took 5th in the Light Men's Double for the US, making the A Final and securing a spot on the World's team in the event. The TRC Heavy Men's Double--Kevin Cardno and Jonathan Kirkegaard took 2nd in the B Final, just ahead of USA2's Dominique Williams and Jacob Plihal, who had nearly made the final themselves in their semifinal, taking 4th to Germany by less than a second. TRC's James Mccullough raced the LM1x here, and took 10th overall in an early morning B Final.
Notes from the Course
- Teamwork: China swept the men's and women's Heavy Quads and Australia swept the men's and women's fours.
- And a Tie: NED1 and AUS tied for third in the M2x Final. Both crews were awarded the bronze, making for an 8 person podium photo, a rarity in the double for sure. We've been told that a tie "down to the pixel" represents 1/10,000th of a second, which is the equivalent of four places after the decimal point in digital timing, whew.
- And A Text: As Martin Cross was lavishing praise on USA Men's 4 coach Tom Terhaar, the coach of record and on the ground for the crew, he got a text on air from Kris Korzenowski himself, just to clarify that the crew had been coached Stateside by Mike Teti and Skip Kielt at the California Rowing Club, and that Terhaar had met the crew in Poland. Guess you never know who is watching, what they know, and whether they have your "mobile" number.