Six more US crews took care of business on a breezy day two to advance, including outright wins by the men's four and both the women's doubles, along with a dramatic "You're Going to Paris" row by the PR3 Mix Four, who qualified the USA for a Paralympic berth in the event by making the A Final just behind the British. The women's four also advanced, with a tidy row behind a Dutch crew that they did not see at the Varese World Cup, where the US took gold.
All of this happened on brisk five minute centers, as World Rowing condensed the Monday schedule to get the racing in before the crossing headwind really got going. Afternoon gusts were predicted to be upwards of 25 mph, and the lanes were also shifted for the whole session, putting crews in the lanes furthest away from the northern, lee shore of the lake..
"A lot of cross gusts," was how Justin Best, bow seat of the US Men's Four described the conditions out on the course. "You're not getting away with sloppy rowing" Best said after his crew won its heat. "You have to row pretty proficiently in these conditions."
Men's Single Seizes Second Chance, 4 Crews to Reps
US single sculler Finn Putnam brought the total of "crews through" to six, winning his rep to get back on track for the quarterfinals, even if he did row the kind of race that gives coaches heart attacks. He trailed Individual Neutral Athlete Alexander Vyazovkin by open water in the early going, but worked through him to stake his claim on the transfer spot and move on.
Finn Putnam, M1x
For the record, with forty-seven entries, the men's single has already had 16 races--8 heats and 8 reps--and will now serve up two sets of quarterfinals and 4 sets of semis before we get to finals that will run all the way through to, you guessed it, a Final H. The event was just two entries shy this year of needing to start with a time trial, and, with the growth of rowing through World Rowing's Development Program, it is likely we will see the that format regularly in the next Olympiad.
Both the men's and women's quads for the US are headed to the reps, as is the PR3 Mix 2x and the women's pair. Meghan Musnicki and Alie Rusher worked their way back through a fast starting Greek pair, only to get pipped at the line by the Chilean sisters who won the first World Cup this year in the four for Chile.
PR3 Mix 4+ Punches Paris Paralympic Ticket
By making the A Final, the US PR3 Mix 4+ staked claim to one of the qualification spots for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. In Tokyo, the US won silver behind perennial Para powerhouse GB, and that was how the two nations finished today in a two-to-advance heat. The spots those crews earned in the A Final guarantees the top-6 finish required to qualify for the Paralympics.
Para Four, left to right: Washburne, Flynn, Eldracher, Dahl, and Harper
The US crew is all new since Tokyo202One, returning three from the boat that took 5th last year in Racice: two seat Saige Harper, three seat Alex Flynn, and coxswain Emelie Eldracher. Skylar Dahl and Benjamin Washburne joined the crew at bow and stroke, and the group prepped differently this year, according to Harper.
"Last year, we split [the four] up around Canadian Henley and we did some smaller boats," Harper said, "but this year we trained through all of that and then went to 'Road to Paris' regatta and raced there. So we had a little bit more international experience under our belt before going into today.
Harper called that racing, where the US won gold over France and Italy, "super helpful."
"It was good for understanding how international races work: the traveling, getting used to the jetlag, and dealing with all that again."
The crew also used a dedicated training camp in Boston, rowing out of the MIT Boathouse, to get ready for this Paralympic qualification year.
"Boston is definitely a hub," said Harper. "All of the resources we could ever want are there and it's really nice rowing there. The lightweight quad also rows out of Boston, and it's fun to be on the Charles all the time."
The experience factor for Harper and her 2022 teammates Flynn and Eldracher, also seems to play a role in the USA's boat speed.
"My first worlds was a whirlwind," Harper laughed. "I couldn't tell you anything that happened because I was just completely starstruck the entire time. This time, I'm a little bit more relaxed. You never really know what to expect, but I know the feelings more. I know the feeling at the start line more, the feeling going through the finish line more, and the preparation."
Men's Four Steals One Back from Aussies
Hard to have a stronger opening salvo then reversing a result, but the US men did just that, stealing a march on the Aussie four that took silver ahead of their bronze at the Varese World Cup.
"We knew it was going to be some tough conditions out there," said Justin Best. "We had a solidly executed warm up, and the boat was feeling like extremely responsive. Our goal was to get clean and row long because of these conditions. You can't just spin and smack the blades in the water.
"Liam did a fantastic job steering and once we made our shift to base, it really felt like it was effective, loose, and even when we caught a gust, we were right back to it."
Best came into the crew after the Varese World Cup, where he raced the pair and took fourth, and one might say that he certainly won his seat race with the improved speed the crew showed against Australia.
"Looking at our splits, we held the same speed, instead of having a fade," Best noted. "That shows we executed the base well."
The US looked in control the whole way, even over a crew--in the Aussies--which has a pretty quick last 500 and collected two silvers behind the flagship GB four this World Cup season.
"One thing that we've developed over the past like few weeks is our last 250. It is one of our stronger points, and we actually didn't need to use that today," Best said. "It's always good to know that there's at least another couple of seconds in the back pocket."
Tidy Row By W4- Punches Ticket to Semis
The US women's four which won gold in Varese moved on easily in their first round race, but the Dutch got the jump on them to win the heat, dropping the fastest time across the three heats in the process. (The Dutch by the way, notched three top times in the process of winning heats with both their fours and both quads today--the Brits were the only other team to win all of the four person boats today, and added a win in the Para four for good measure)
"The goal is to be the best on Saturday," said US stroke seat Claire Collins. "We've got a whole week to continue to improve and that's been the point of the whole summer: each day getting a little bit better.
"There's actually a lot of time in the World Champs week to continue to improve," she added.
"It was pretty gusty and crazy out there, which we are used to from Mercer but it can still throw you. We had really good push, really good looseness and moving together, to get the boat to keep moving and recover from any bobbles.
"We got the job done. We have a few things to work on but the times are pretty close between all the women's fours' heats so that's very exciting.
"The Dutch are not a crew we saw [in Varese] but they have been doing well all season, and they usually perform pretty well at the Worlds, so we expected to be pretty tight with them. I think the point is just to keep in our boat, keep doing our race plan, and keep improving."
Notes From The Course
Same Centers as the Air Traffic? - The start line is directly under the landing pattern for the Belgrade airport, and much like in Tokyo planes come in directly over the racecourse. The planes seemed to be very close to the same 5' centers as the racing at times today, and the umpires would wait just moments until the planes cleared the course to poll the crews quickly and send them.
Whoa, Almost - We came pretty close to having a swimmer or two today, whew.
photo credit: Julia Kowacic
wild2k Update - There are tiny jellyfish in the Sava (accompanied by an odd smell, which made us and some others wonder if it was possible the Sava was salt water by some strange happenstance), so we did the hard research on the topic and dug up this authoritative source, where we learned that they are peach blossom jellyfish Craspedacusta sowerbii, which is native to the Yangtze in China, and now is found on every continent except Antarctica.
Best Practice - Another day at the start of a FISA race reminded us of one umpire’s description of the desired starter’s vibe at a World Rowing event, which they described as ‘devoid of emotion – I mean nearly dead.’
To What? Best starter mispronunciation of the day: Togo as To Go.
Sweet Tat - We see a lot of tattoos at starting lines all year long, but this set of tats on the Ukraine men's double was good enough to cause a double take and a photo click
You Decide - It is just us or does this photo look like a still from the slap fight trend?
And...Everyone loves Belgrade
We caught Ireland's 'Big Strong Gorls' taking their photo there, too, yesterday:
Now if they would just post the version that nice helpful chap took for them to their Insta, we'll post that, too.