The women's four won a bronze medal on Saturday to highlight the first day of finals for the United States at the 2006 FISA World Rowing Championships on Dorney Lake in Eton, England.
The crew of Rachel Jeffers (Los Gatos, Calif.), Esther Lofgren (Newport Beach, Calif.), Erin Cafaro (Modesto, Calif.), and Portia Johnson (Seattle, Wash.) used a strong second half of the race to come back to win the bronze medal. The crew sat in fifth position at the 500-meter mark before slowly beginning its push towards a medal position just before the midway point of the race. The U.S. passed Germany for third place during the third 500 meters and then walked away from the rest of the field to secure the bronze medal. Australia won the gold medal with a time of 6:25.35, setting a world's best time in the process. China finished second in a 6:26.75, followed by the U.S. in a 6:28.66.
"We definitely got better with every race," Johnson said. "We did some work over the last couple of days to try to make that first 500 a little faster and maybe it helped a little bit. We knew we had a really strong second half, and I think we were just trying to clean up the front (part of the race). We've come a long way since trials. I think if we had been in the race a little more at the 500, we would have had a better shot at the top two medals."
In the final of the women's pair, Anna Mickelson (Bellevue, Wash.) and Megan Cooke (Los Gatos, Calif.) finished fourth to just miss a spot on the medal stand. Canada took the lead in the first 250 meters and continued to build on its advantage through the 1,500-meter mark. Meanwhile, Germany, New Zealand, and the United States battled each other for second place the entire way down the course. The Germans held the second position through 1,750 meters, but the defending world champions from New Zealand rowed through Germany in the final few strokes. The U.S. continued to press forward but could not quite catch Germany for the bronze medal, finishing about a half-length behind. Canada won the race with a time of 6:54.68. New Zealand won the silver in a 6:56.72, followed by Germany in a 6:57.11. Mickelson and Cooke finished fourth in a 6:58.23.
The men's four of Brett Newlin (Riverton, Wyo.), Josh Inman (Hillsboro, Ore.), Michael Blomquist (Greensboro, N.C.), and Matt Schnobrich (St. Paul, Minn.) also just missed winning a medal, finishing fourth in Saturday's final. The crew sat in second position, just behind the defending world champions from Great Britain, through the 1,000-meter mark. While Great Britain pulled away during the third quarter of the race, the U.S. and the Netherlands entered the final 500 meters in a virtual tie for second place. However, a hard-charging German crew used a blistering final sprint to pass both crews and finish in the silver-medal position. The Dutch finished third to win the bronze medal. Great Britain finished with a time of 5:43.75, followed by Germany in a 5:44.64. The Netherlands clocked a 5:45.54, while the U.S. finished in a 5:47.09.
In the men's pair with coxswain final, the trio of Vincent Puma (Irvington, N.Y.), Pat Godfrey (Gorham, Maine), and Ted Farwell (Madison, Wis.) also finished fourth. The crew got off to a strong start and led the race after 500 meters. However, Serbia, Canada, and Italy all pushed through the American crew in the second quarter of the race to stake their claims to medal positions. At the finish line, Serbia had easily won gold with a time of 6:51.27. Italy finished second in a 6:54.39, followed by Canada in a 6:55.41. The U.S. clocked a 6:56.91.
Michelle Guerette (Bristol, Conn.) finished fifth in the final of the women's single sculls. Guerette started off in sixth position but passed Russia's Julia Levina for fifth place during the second quarter of the race. The American stayed close to the bronze-medal position through the 1,500-meter mark. However, she could never make a serious challenge as Sweden's Frida Svensson picked up her pace and took control of third place. Belarus' Ekaterina Karsten continued her dominance in the event by winning her sixth single sculls title since 1996, which includes gold at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games. Karsten clocked a 7:11.02 to finish four seconds ahead of the Czech Republic's Mirka Knapkova. Svensson rowed through France's Sophie Balmary in the final 500 meters to win the bronze medal in a 7:18.35. Guerette finished with a time of 7:23.67.
In the lightweight men's eight, the U.S. crew of coxswain Bracknell Baker (Wellesley, Mass.), Cameron Booth (Buffalo, N.Y.), John Nichols (Palo Alto, Calif.), Will Daly (Vail, Colo.), Jake Goodman (Corrales, N.M.), Greg Ruckman (Cincinnati, Ohio), Pete Morelli (Buffalo, N.Y.), Jon D'Alba (Berwyn, Pa.), and Sam Saylor (San Diego, Calif.) finished fifth in the final. The crew sat in sixth position through the 1,000-meter mark before passing the Netherlands and almost catching Denmark. Italy won gold in a 5:36.35, followed by Germany and Poland. The U.S. finished 0.09 seconds behind Denmark in a 5:40.17.
In the lightweight women's single sculls final, Lisa Schlenker (Lake Oswego, Ore.) finished sixth. Schlenker held the fourth position through the 1,000-meter mark. However, she was unable to make a move on a top three position during the second half of the race and fell to sixth place. The Netherlands Marit Van Eupen won the race in a 7:32.26, followed by Germany's Berit Carow and Spain's Teresa Mas De Xaxars. Schlenker finished with a time of 7:41.17.
Other gold-medal winners on Saturday included Great Britain's Zac Purchase in the lightweight men's single sculls, New Zealand's Mahe Drysdale in the men's single sculls, Australia in the men's pair, Australia in the women's double sculls, and France in the men's double sculls. Purchase and Drysdale set new world's best times in their victories.
The U.S. also raced in four placement finals on Saturday. In the women's double sculls, Susan Francia (Abington, Pa.) and Brett Sickler (Los Gatos, Calif.) finished sixth in the B final for a 12th-place finish overall. Francia and Sickler got off to a solid start and held third place at the 500-meter mark. The duo sat in fourth position at the midway point of the race but was still within contact of the top crews. However, the U.S. dropped off the pace in the third 500 meters and came home in fifth. Francia and Sickler clocked a 6:57.70 and now turn their attention to tomorrow's women's eight final. The Czech Republic won the race with a time of 6:51.04.
In the men's single sculls, Jamie Schroeder (Wilmette, Ill.) also finished sixth in the B final for a 12th-place overall finish. Schroeder sat in sixth position at each 500-meter split and was never able to challenge the top finishers. Sweden's Lassi Karonen won the B final, passing the Netherlands' Sjoerd Hamburger during the second half of the race. Karonen won with a time of 6:44.49. Schroeder clocked a 6:51.68.
The men's pair of Sam Burns (Seattle, Wash.) and Dan Beery (Oaktown, Ind.) was unable to finish its B final after Berry suffered back spasms in the first 250 meters of the race, forcing him to stop rowing. South Africa went on to win the race in a 6:27.41, with Italy finishing second.
The lightweight men's double sculls tandem of Cody Lowry (Bristow, Okla.) and Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg (Philadelphia, Pa.) finished fifth in the C final to finish in 17th-place overall. The duo clocked a 6:25.75 to finish 4.36 seconds behind the winners from Slovakia.
In the lone adaptive event of the day for the U.S., the legs-trunk-arms four with coxswain of Ryan Pawling (Jenkintown, Pa.), Jamie Dean (Pickerington, Ohio), Jesse Karmazin (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.), Jennifer Klapper (Scotia, N.Y.), and Aerial Gilbert (Tiburon, Calif.) finished second in its repechage, or second-chance race, to advance to tomorrow's final. The crew led through the midway point of the race before finishing second and easily securing a spot in the final. Italy won the race with a time of 3:39.37, followed by the U.S. in a 3:44.40. The crew will take on the Netherlands, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, and Italy in the final. The Netherlands and Great Britain won the heats.
Racing concludes on Sunday with the second day of finals. The U.S. will have nine crews racing in finals tomorrow.