By Sunday afternoon, after nearly a week of frantic racing crammed into an often interrupted, and frequently weather delayed schedule - molded daily by the dense weather systems that rolled over it - the Under 23 World Rowing Championship finished with a morning of racing worth watching in a hot tropical summer sun.
Great Britain battled the US men's eight to the end in a stroke-for-stroke final to take gold in a race preceded with an early gold medal win from US lightweight single sculler Sam Melvin, and a repeat silver medal performance by American women's single sculler Emily Kallfelz.
The US won five medals Sunday to match in number the British for the day, but not in sparkle. The Brits won four of five races, while Italy continued an 11 medal pull that sparked repeated celebrations, backed by the playing of Italy's national anthem - the Il Canto degli Italiani - six times over the final two days.
Italy was having the kind of regatta that prompted exuberant celebrations off, on, and in the water. Even their men's four that finished third were so excited that stroke seat jumped out of the boat.
The GB crews won the men's eight, men's four, women's four, and the women's lightweight single, while taking silver in the women's eight. The US was in the fight in four of those races, finishing just between the Brits in the men's (silver) and women's (bronze) eights, while the women's four claimed a bronze medal.
The battle for the men's eight title was probably the best of the day, with the Brits and the US going stroke for stroke to the line. With their Sunday romp, Great Britain overtook the Italians in the final medal points standings, with eight total medals that included six gold, and two silver medals.
US and British men's eight battling toward the finish
Highlighting the medal ceremonies for the US Sunday was Melvin's gold medal row. It was followed by Kallfelz's repeat of last year's result and her second consecutive U23 silver medal, her third consecutive U23 single medal. Kallfelz won the 2017 bronze in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. In all, the US took away seven medals from the weekend finals, including a gold, three silver, and three bronze.
But not to be outdone by the Italians in glee, the Dutch who often have the best celebrations, joined in the fun by jumping in the water to swim out to meet greet crews that medaled. Unfortunately, the finish line was a pretty good swim, there were other boats in the way, and several swimmers, had to take breaks along the way.
The overhead drone shot after the finish of the women's eight finish showed the Dutch swimmers for a quite a while; one guy got halfway out there, found his way blocked by the GB W8+, so he paused, looked around, took a deep breath, and just swam under the British boat, whew.
While the conditions were generally good Sunday, it is Florida, and it was hot, and several athletes struggled with the heat and temperatures that inched toward 100 degrees (which of course is not helped by the bright sun reflecting off the water and sand.)
They were difficult conditions to compete in and some examples included seven seat in British women's eight taking half strokes for at least the last 250 meters of the race. She held on and helped the boat cross in silver, but she physically couldn't make it to the medal stand.
Her teammates stood waiting for her so long a second rower dropped and had to be helped by medical staff. Multiple crews in other events made it to the podium but were overcome, and vomiting ahead of the awards was not unusual.
Speaking of things that get hot: Race organizers spent a good 30 minutes putting carpets on the ramps to the dock so rowers wouldn't burn their feet. They still had to constantly dump water on it due to the heat.
The officials seemed particularly keen on keeping the blue carpet on the medals dock free from footprints, and made it clear that non-athletes were not welcome to leave footprints - except, of course, those made by the staff.
As in every major international event, the week is hectic and often tests the patience of nearly everyone involved. In other words, the pace goes from calm happy practice days, to mass craziness.
In the end, though, as the finals days come to a close and the teams and their equipment is packed up and trucked off, the venue becomes eerily quiet, regatta staff and officials are noticeably ready to see it all end, and sometimes, a cooler of beer and wine appears in the media center.
One thing that always happens, though is the athlete gear swap.
USRowing Press Release
Team USA Earns Five More Medals, Seven in Total at World Rowing Under 23 Championships.
Team USA earned five more medals, one gold, two silver and two bronze, on the final day of the 2019 World Rowing Under 23 Championships. After earning one silver and one bronze in the lightweight women’s pair and lightweight women’s quadruple sculls, respectively, the U.S. is taking home seven medals, the fourth most of the championships.
Sam Melvin won the US sole gold medal
U.S. lightweight men’s single sculler Sam Melvin (Costa Mesa, Calif.) finished his A final in 7:06.67, earning the gold medal.
“Honestly, it hasn’t sunken in,” said Melvin. “I don’t know, I feel pretty normal right now. It’ll sink in eventually.”
All rowers were within two seconds of each other at the 500 meter mark, with nobody having a clear advantage early on. Melvin went from last to first during the second 500 meters, but still having contact with all crews. He dominated the third quarter of the race, putting a three-second gap between him and The Netherlands. Crossing the finish line in first was something he could not quite put into words.
“[I was in] disbelief,” Melvin said. “Did that really just happen?”
The American also reflected on all the work he has put into training.
“It all paid off,” said Melvin. “It means the world to me. It confirms I’m on the right path and what I’m doing is working.”
The Netherlands finished with the silver medal followed by Austria with the bronze. The two finished in 7:06.83 and 7:08.92, respectively.
The men’s eight, coxed by Woods Connell (Bethesda, Md.) and rowed by Andrew Gaard (Madison, Wis.), Andrew Knoll (Greenback, Tenn.), Sam Halbert (Redmond, Wash.), Alex Miklasevich (Pittsburgh, Pa.), William Creedon (Denver, Colo.), Chris Carlson (Bedford, N.H.), Justin Best (Kennett Square Pa.) and Madison Molitor (Moses Lake, Wash.), won silver for the United States with a time of 5:36.21. The crew pulled their way into second place by the 1000 meter mark and held onto silver the rest of the way. The only crew that managed to hold off the U.S. was Great Britain, which finished in 5:34.30 to take gold. The Netherlands finished in third in 5:36.36.
Emily Kallfelz has a repeat silver medal performance
Emily Kallfelz (Jamestown, R.I.) repeated last year’s silver-medal finish in the women’s single sculls. Kallfelz strongly lead the majority of the race, but was overtaken by Australia in the sprint. She crossed the line in 7:37.61, just behind Australia’s 7:36.08. The Italians claimed bronze with a 7:38.13.
"(Medaling back to back years] is exciting. It was an okay race,” said Kallfelz. “In the middle of the race, I think the heat got to me a little bit. I got chills and couldn’t really see so it definitely wasn’t one of my better races, but I’m still excited. I can’t complain.”
The women’s four of Teal Cohen (Dallas, Texas), Meredith Koenigsfeld (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), Kaitlyn Kynast (Ridgefield, Conn.) and Chase Shepley (Crystal Lake, Ill.) won bronze in 6:39.89. They were sitting in fourth place at the halfway point, but pulled into third by the 1500-meter mark.
Women's bronze medal four on the dock
“It was a great effort all across,” said Shepley. “It was awesome racing out there, the other crews really gave us a good fight. I’m really proud of the way we performed consistently throughout the week.”
“I thought it was a good end to the summer, obviously,” said Kynast. “We were really proud to give the United States a medal and I’m happy to do it with these guys.”
After finishing, the crew needed reassurance that they had medaled.
“I wanted to know what place we were in,” said Cohen. “I think I knew we were in third but just making sure. We had a really good fight in the last 500 meters and I think we really used the fitness we gained this summer in the second half of the race when we needed to.”
While pleased with a bronze, the race didn’t pan out as the crew expected.
“No race ever goes according to plan,” joked Shepley. “I was proud we didn’t back down even when things didn’t go according to whatever plan we had and I think we stayed aggressive and attacked. I’m just really pleased with our performance.”
“I thought we stayed super relaxed,” said Cohen. “At 500 meters in, we were pretty down but I thought we stayed super internal in our boat and worked every stroke to get back in the race.”
Great Britain claimed the gold in this category, finishing in 6:34.22, followed by silver-medalists Ireland, which finished in 6:35.68.
The women’s eight, coxed by Isabel Weiss (Chicago, Ill.) and rowed by Larkspur Skov (Steamboat Springs, Colo.), Sophia Kershner (Palmyra, Va.), Mary Mazzio-Manson (Wellesley, Mass.), Kinsey McNamara (Chelmsford, Mass.), Kendall Fearnley (Huntington Beach, Calif.), Jeri Rhodes (St. Louis, Mo.), Sierra Tiede (Missoula, Mont.), and Madeline Perrett (Ann Arbor, Mich.) won the bronze medal with a time of 6:23.47, fending off the Romanians at the finish line. They got out to third at the beginning of the race and stayed strong in the position down the course. The Netherlands won gold in 6:17.93 followed by Great Britain who, by less than a second, edged out the U.S. boat with a time of 6:22.52.
Women's eight with bronze medals
Brigid Kennedy (East Greenwich, R.I.), the U.S. lightweight women’s single sculler, finished in fourth place in 8:05.76. Kennedy trailed at the 500 meter mark but increased her speed in the second quarter, pulling her into fourth place at halfway. She held onto that position while pressure on the third-place finisher from Austria, which finished in 8:03.32. Great Britain won gold in a time of 7:58.28, followed by Germany in 7:59.98.
Elizabeth Ray (Miami, Fla.) and Grace Joyce (Northfield, Ill.) rowed the lightweight women’s double sculls to a sixth-place finish in 7:21.12. Switzerland took the gold in 7:03.83, followed by The Netherlands and Germany, which finished in 7:09.45 and 7:09.56, respectively.
In the B final of the women’s double sculls, the U.S. duo of Emily Delleman (Davenport, Iowa) and Elizabeth Sharis (Bettendorf, Iowa) exploded to a strong lead by the 500-meter mark pulling a 1:47.88 in the first quarter of the race. With the Canadians applying pressure down the course, the Americans held onto first and won the B final in 7:21.98. Canada crossed the line in 7:23.82. Delleman and Sharis finish in 7th place overall.
The men’s four finished their B final in second place with a time of 6:10.53. The crew of Liam Corrigan (Old Lyme, Conn.), George Esau (Long Lake, Minn.), David Bridges (Portland, Ore.) and Thomas Beck (Sandy, Utah) were in fifth place after the first 500 meters, but stuck to their race plan and made their way into second by the 1500-meter mark. The U.S. placed in eighth place overall in the Championships.
The men’s double sculls of Cole Dorsey (Rowayton, Conn.) and Mark Couwenhoven (Parkton, Md.) finished in fourth in their B final in a time of 6:48.03. They finish in 10th place overall. Great Britain won the B final in 6:35.87.
Placing fifth in the lightweight men’s double sculls B final was Luke Smith (Tampa, Fla.) and Alexandar Damjanovic (Alexandria, Va.). The two clocked 6:48.29, while Australia won in 6:38.86. That finish puts the U.S. crew in 11th overall.
Rowing Canada press release
Canada wrapped up five days of World Rowing U23 Championship racing at Nathan Benderson Park with two fourth place A final finishes and a B final victory.
The Women's Four was the first Canadian boat on Sunday to finish fourth overall after a close A final race that saw the Canadian squad follow Great Britain, Ireland and the United States with a time of 6:42.760.
Closing out the competition for Canada was Louise Munro (Ottawa, ON), who came fourth overall in the competitive Women's Single event with a time of 7:42.400.
"I learned a lot this regatta, started out a little rocky, was kind of finding my feet, so it was nice to progress through the regatta and step up my performance every time and giving a really good push for my final," said Munro, who raced in Canada's U23 Women's Quad boat last year. "I was really working on the process instead of the outcome of my races and learning from the competitors. I'm really happy that with my last race I was able to push off some of the best U23s. Overall it was really positive and a lot of fun."
In Sunday's B final action, the Men's Eight had a strong race, maintaining the lead for the full 2000m, crossing the line first and coming in seventh overall with a time of 5:50.370.
Katie Clark (Cranbrook, BC) and Yara Ensminger (Oakville, ON) concluded their U23 Worlds performance with a second place finish in the Women's Double B final (eighth overall). The Canadian Men's Double of Tyler Adams (Victoria, BC) and Michael Bryenton (Peterborough, ON) came fifth in their B final (eleventh overall).
Spencer Kielar (Guelph, ON) wrapped up his international debut with a sixth place finish in the Men's Lightweight Single B final (twelfth overall).