BLED, Slovenia - Just on the opposite side of the boatyard, a small stream feeds ice cold water into Lake Bled.
But before it gets to the lake, the water ponds up and provides an ice bath for recovering rowers. Most of the time, it looks large enough to accommodate a dozen or so people.
But with the women from the United States eight icing down after another dominating performance, the pond looked small. Nothing could be more appropriate. The U.S. eight are the big fish these days in any pond where there is rowing.
After falling behind Great Britain in the first few strokes of its heat at the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia, the U.S. crew of coxswain Mary Whipple (Sacramento, Calif.), Eleanor Logan (Boothbay Harbor, Maine), Caroline Lind (Greensboro, N.C.), Amanda Polk (Pittsburgh, Pa.), Jamie Redman (Spokane, Wash.) Taylor Ritzel (Larkspur, Colo.), Meghan Musnicki (Naples, N.Y.), Susan Francia, (Abington, Pa.) and Esther Lofgren (Newport Beach) took calm control and motored through the pack before opening up a commanding lead on the field to finish first in 6:12.42, nearly six seconds over the second place Brits.
"That was a good piece, a good race," said head coach Tom Terhaar. "You want to get to the final, so it was a good start. We've still got some work to do, obviously, but it was a good start."
The victory advanced the U.S. directly to Friday's finals and ensures a repeat showdown with Canada, which won the first heat and advanced to the final in a time of 6:07.20. The Canadian women also dominated their race and last month, gave the U.S. a run at the Lucerne world cup, leading until the final 500 meters, before falling to second behind the U.S.
With a shortened program and restructured schedule that has four days of finals instead of the traditional two for world championship racing, only nine U.S. crews saw action today, with two advancing.
In the last heat of the day for the U.S., the lightweight women's double sculls with Julie Nichols (Livermore, Calif.) and Kristin Hedstrom (Concord, Mass.) led from start to finish to advance to the Saturday semifinals. Nichols and Hedstrom finished in 7:03.01, more than two seconds ahead of second-place Italy.
The race continued a summer of success for the two women, who took a gold and two bronze medals on the 2011 Samsung World Rowing Cup tour and won the overall points trophy, the first for a U.S. crew.
"We feel good about this," said Hedstrom. "It's not over yet. But we completed step one, as we wanted to. So, step one is done and now we are just going to be focusing forward.
"It's been a great summer," she said. "Our approach to it has been just work hard and work right, and that's kind of what's come of it."
Seven other U.S. crews raced in heats Monday including the arms and shoulders men's and women's single sculls, trunk and arms mixed double sculls, legs/trunk/arms mixed four with coxswain, men's pair with coxswain, and men's and women's lightweight quadruple sculls.
The lightweight men's pair team of Phillip Oertle (Zurich, Switzerland) and Kyle Lafferty (Hockessin, Del.) raced a repechage, or second-chance race, but failed to advance. They finished fourth in their race, relegating them to the third-level final Thursday.
But the main event of the morning was the women's eight heat. The win extends a five-year undefeated streak under coach Tom Terhaar that began at the 2006 World Rowing Championships. The U.S. has won every race they have entered since finishing second at the 2006 Lucerne world cup. The string of wins includes four world championships and the 2008 Olympic title.
While Terhaar has repeatedly said he does not think about consecutive wins and is focused only on qualifying the eight for the 2012 games, the U.S. crew is looking to win this Friday and is upbeat and determined.
"It was really exciting," said Jamie Redman. "We've been waiting all summer to go to the line and it was just an absolutely brilliant experience. I think, as a crew, it was a really solid experience. There's a lot we can work on, but there's a lot of things we did really, really well. I'm really excited for Friday."
One thing they can tinker with is the start. The blade work in the first few strokes were off and it took a few meters for the crew to settle down and find a rhythm. But with a crew led by a coxswain as experienced as Beijing Olympian Whipple, it was just a matter of being patient and confident.
"There are so many things going on at the start, that you just want to focus on your own boat and make sure we're doing everything we can to make our boat as fast as possible and stay as internal as possible. So we've got things to keep us moving and sticking together and we really trust and believe in that," she said.
"It was good because it was our heat and the first race with our lineup. We got some cob webs out and we're excited to race again on Friday."
In the first racing of the morning, the adaptive team was led by Tricia Downing (Denver, Colo.), who rowed the arms and shoulders women's single sculls. Lined up with Russia, France, Brazil, Korea and Belarus, Downing finished fifth with a time of 7:02.29. France won the heat in a time of 5:57.12.
Downing, rowing in her first ever international rowing race, will compete again tomorrow morning.
"It was great," Downing said of her first race. "I was calm at the start and felt I knew what I needed to do. I knew it was going to be a fast heat, but I also knew I could just concentrate on what I was doing."
Next up was Ron Harvey (Downingtown, Pa.), who raced against Australia, China, Russia, Korea and Israel and finished third in a time of 5:10.98. Russia won the heat in 5:08.52. Harvey, an eight-time national team athlete and 2008 Paralympian, recorded the fourth-fastest time of the three heats and will also row again in the morning.
In the trunk and arms mixed double, the team of Anthony Davis (La Center, Wash.) and Jacqui Kapinowski (Point Pleasant, N.J.) faced Greece, Australia, Poland and Great Britain. They finished fourth in 4:28.96 and will race tomorrow in the repechage. Ukraine won the heat in a time of 4:13.42.
In the final adaptive heat of the day, the legs/trunk/arms mixed four with coxswain team of Alex Stein (Stamford, Conn.), Eleni Englert (Oceanside, Calif.), Emma Preuschl (Indianapolis, Ind.), Andrew Johnson (Greenwich, Conn.) and Eric McDaniel (Weeki Wachee, Fla.) finished third with a time of 3:39.35 behind Germany, which won in 3:33.12, and France, which was second in 3:35.50. They will also race again tomorrow.
In the men's pair with coxswain, the team of coxswain Anthony Altimari (Huntington, N.Y.), Blaise Didier (San Francisco, Calif.) and Derek Johnson (Hillsborough, Calif.) missed advancing to the final, finishing second in 7:10.31 behind Italy, which rowed a 7:04.19. They will race again in the reps Wednesday.
Following the women's eight heat was the lightweight women's quadruple sculls. The crew of Katherine Robinson (Everett, Wash.), Lindsey Hochman (Seattle, Wash.), Nicole Dinion (Falls Church, Va.) and Hillary Saeger (Dedham, Mass.) finished third behind Italy and Australia with a time of 6:40.49. Italy clocked a 6:36.14 and Australia finished in 6:39.24. The next race for the U.S. crew will be Wednesday.
The lightweight men's quadruple sculls crew of Sam Cunningham (Pittsburgh, Pa.), Todd Mickelson (West Simsbury, Conn.), Chris Lambert (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) and Shane Madden (Ambler, Pa.) raced against Germany, Ireland and Armenia, finishing third in 6:08.81. Germany won in 5:59.98 and Ireland was second in 6:03.05.