What a way to kick off the Olympic finals
Yekaterina Karsten went out of the gatess and into the lead, and lots of folks were thinking that it was over; Karsten would row away to gold. But Karsten faltered, and Neykova rallied, and soon Neykova found herself almost along in the lead, with Rutschow in third position right behind Karsten. . Neykova put together the fastest second 500, then the fastest third 500, and Karsten fell back until Rutschow almost caught her.
Entering the last 500, Neykova seemed a lock - it wasn't until the last 20 strokes that Karsten started coming. The line approached, and it seemed impossible for Karsten to catch her - there couldn't be enough room. Karsten got closer and closer, they crossed the line together, and then we all waited.
And waited. 15 minutes passed, and still no verdict. The men's single came down, no verdict. The President of the Jury, FISA president Denis Oswald, and Anita DeFrantz were called to the finish tower. Making matters worse, one photo - the one with the yellow line superimposed - had played on television and showed Neykova ahead. Another photo - the Swatch photo - had played on TV as well and showed Karsten ahead.
20 minutes passed, and the verdict was in - Karsten by one- one-hundredth of a second. Some thought it should have been declared a dead heat; there could never have been a closer Olympic final.
In the clamor, let's not forget Rutschow - she was 0.86 behind.
Next year, Karsten, who married a German, plans to move to Germany and hopes to compete for her new country. With both Karsten and Ruschow-Stomporowski in the same country, can you imagine what the trials will be like?!?
You can bet on rowing in Australia - one Australian journo had $1000 riding on this one. That had to be a damn long wait for the photo finish for that bloke.
Men's Single: Waddell proves unbeatable
Rob Waddell likes to race his own race: close to even splitting, not too much rating early, no giant moves in the middle of the race, just steady hauling.
Juri Jaanson led off the start, forcing folks to go with him a bit, and when he backed off slightly, Xeno blasted ahead. Waddell followed, and Xeno kept Waddell about a foot behind him for over 600 meters.
At 500 to go, Waddell stepped on it, and left. He had open water by 150 to go. In the race for third, Hacker had pushed into the bronze spot, Porter pushed back, and Hacker went again.
Medals ceremony: Xeno was a gracious second place, turning and applauding for Waddell when he was awarded the gold, and then asking to take a look - two gold medalists sharing a gander at the newest Olympic gold.
For his part, Hacker was ecstatic; after getting his medal, he threw his flowers in the air, leaped over the media fence, and charged up into the crowd, hugging everyone he knew.
Women's Pair: Where did that start come from?
The US blasted out of the gates on fire, leaping out to almost a length lead, most of it coming on the racing start. This is the usual profile of the Romanians, who like to get it done hard and early; they were back in fourth briefly, and in third at the 500 and the 1000 behind the US and Australia.
But the Romanians kept coming, pushing through Australia by 500 to go, and reeling in the Americans by about 15 strokes to go. By this time, the daring US start had taken a toll, and the roaring Aussie crowd kicked in, and the Australians snuck past the US to take silver. The US took the bronze, followed by defending world champs Canada, who were never really a factor.
As I've said here before, the US pair shows up for the big ones - Prime Time People.
"We just got a clean start - it was the best start we've ever had," Ryan said after the race. Karen Kraft said that they were surprised to be out in front alone, and especially surprised that the Romanians weren't there with them. The US pair was happy with their bronze, however, and good for them for it.
Men's Pair: Smoke on the Water
I've never seen anything like the tactics the French took in winning this gold. In fourth position crossing the 1000, and maybe in third approaching the 500 to go, they jacked it up to 43.5 with 600 meters to go. Three of us took stroke ratings and checked each other, because we couldn't believe it; we all got 43.5 or 44. With 600 to go!
The tactic was worth something like a length and a quarter, and the French found themselves out front crossing the 500, and kept going. I thought it would be a flutter, but they just kept pounding. It was an amazing 44; finishes way into the bow, finishing long, strong, aggressive swing. It seemed almost foolhardy, and I've never seen anything like it, let alone in a Games final. But so what if they were absolutely cashed in with 5 strokes to go; the lead they piled up a minute or so earlier was huge, and they crawled across for gold.
Meanwhile, the Americans went with them, passing the Brits, the Yugos, and almost catching the French, to take silver. After the semi, Ted Murphy told me they just needed to be able to tack a sprint onto what they had already been doing; it worked.
Having been back in the boat together only two and a half weeks, it's not surprising in retrospect that the Americans were improving with each row. According to bow seat Ted Murphy, the pair was working on fundamental technical matters.
"After the heats, we watched some of the video, and saw that we needed some work on our front end," Murphy said. "We watched these other crews, the Aussies and Great Britain, and they are some of the best rowers in the world, so we figured we'd learn from them. All summer our starts had been near 50, then 48, then 44, then eventually down to base cadence. We saw the Aussies starting at 41-42, and the Brits starting at 43-42.
"So we worked on staying long at the front end, ," he continued. "In the semi, we saw that we were cutting our finishes off a little, so we worked on the back end, holding on a little longer, and rowing with a little more patience.
"Going into the final, our coach John Pescatore said that the crew that was ahead at the 1000 wasn't going to win, that it would be the crew that was closest to even splitting that would win. And that was exactly how it went; the Brits were up at the 1000."
Let's look at Pescatore's theory:
Looks like Pesky made the call.
The United States boat was christened the Kurth Borcherding, after the US spare who sat in for Sebastian for the better part of the last six weeks. Very much a part of the crew, he went down the course with them.
To this point, two of the five Princeton Training Center crews took home medals.
Women's Double: Wire-to-Wire
The Germans rule this race. In the lead, they were down around 32.5-33 around the 1000; they're that good.
The United States attacked with full cannons - no surprise from these two. They made a courageous attempt at a full pull, run and gun for the silver chasing the Germans and stretching out to open water over the rest of the field. But they were paying dearly, and the final 15 strokes found them almost helpless to respond to the field blitzing back up on them. Nearly collapsing over their oars, two crews snuck through, the Netherlands including Van Nes, who took bronze in Atlanta; bronze last year; she alone makes this crew dangerous. They've raced intact since 1998, never failing to medal' and the Lithuanians, who came second at Lucerne, just ahead of the US.
Men's Double: Call the Cops!
Slovenia controlled this race utterly. They took off at the start, kept going, and let everyone else fight it out for the rest of the medals.
And a decent fight it was. Norway and Italy duked it out with a few feet between them the entire way. Italy's crew includes Nicola Sartori 1999 sixth place single sculler; Norway won bronze last year and was second in Lucerne.
With 15 to go, Norway jacked it up finally to pull away from Italy to take silver; Italy took bronze, followed by Germany, Hungary, and Poland.
Men's Four: Redgrave does it.
As predicted here, the GBR four was untouchable, and led from start to finish. The field was reeling them in at the finish, but it was never really in doubt that Redgrave would take his fifth. On the medal stand, Samaranch showed up to present him with a special medal commemorating the feat.
But even Samaranch had to wait for the GBR fly-bys; the crew rowed up to the 600 meter mark in front of the grandstands opposite the finish tower, basking in the glory of their victory.
Behind them, the Italian crew came back from a slow start to row into silver, and were even coming up on the Brits at the finish. After the semis, Wolf Moser told me that you can't give away more than three seats in this event; had the Italians stayed closer earlier, this might have been a different story.
In the middle part of the race, it was GBR followed by four even crews; Italy, Australia, the USA and Slovenia. In the third 500, the three leaders snuck away, and by the finish the Australians took bronze, followed by the Slovenians, the USA, and New Zealand.
While the US crew was disappointed with their placing, this isn't a bad showing at all for a crew that had to go through the European qualifier in what was likely the most stacked event of the entire Games.