The Australians are clearly getting a lift from the hometown crowd; in many cases, if we see a photo finish, the AUS is involved, and it has as much to do with the crowd pushing them along as it does anything else. I see some foreign crews respond positively to the racket, upping the ante with the Aussies egged on by the crowd, while others are dispirited. An interesting lesson for racing away; when the crowd roars, row like they're cheering for you.
The venue seats 30,000, and another group strings up the course to around the 750 in the picnic area. Sounds bounces around a little, and this is the first time I've ever heard a crowd like this. At most rowing regattas, the crowd still sounds like a crowd of human beings - it just sounds like many, many people yelling. But this venue, and this size crowd, takes on that inhuman, almost metallic roar that you hear only in, say, a live Bon Jovi concert; it is so loud and relentless that it sounds like it is everywhere and nowhere at once. It WILL be a factor in the finals.
Monica went out of the gates gamely, but fell off the pace by early in the second 500, and never recovered. The Bulgarian Neykova absolutely owned this race, followed by hometown fave Gina Douglas and island neighbor Sonia Waddell of NZL.
In the other semi, Karsten, Rutschow, and Alexandrova rowed down the course together; it almost looked like a row among friends who were keeping their boats even. Rutschow was at 28, Karsten at 30, and Alexandrova at 29.5.
All three advance.
Don's best shot at th final was to take out Ivo Yanakiev of Bulgaria, who placed fifth at the 1999 Worlds, SECOND in his heat behind Waddell, nine seconds back, and second in the rep in 7:09.22 behind Juri Jaanson
Fifth at last year's Worlds, Ivo was nonetheless some 11 seconds off the pace. Lucerne found him even further behind, nearly 25 second off the pace in sixth place.
Don shadowed the Bulgarian through the middle of the race, and had the courage to go after it early, moving on the field at one point. He was trading places with Egelmeers of the Netherlands, but didn't have the raw speed down the stretch to make the final, and faded in the final 300 meters, finishing in sixth position, seven seconds off A final qualifying position. He will row in the B final.
In the other semifinal, Xeno, Hacker (Germany) join astounding vet Juri Jaanson in the final. Chalupa finished last, his shot at finally beating his silver jinx, or perhaps even of continuing it, dashed as he heads to the B final.
The Republic of South Africa's astounding Olympics, after showing almost nothing this summer, continues, as the RSA sends Canada to the petites in a photo finish.
I was picking Searle and Coode to win this event, and will stick by it and let them race; they might have coasted this semi just a little too much and were reeled in by the French. Both advance to the A final with RSA.
Sebastian and Ted went after it; they had the Aussies just barely in their trail at 500 gone, and extended after that for the better part of the race. The Yugos looked game to run with them; remember that bowman Visacki rowed with Sebastian at Cal, and Stojic rowed at Brown.
As the finish line approached, the Australian crowd went bonkers, and Tomkins and Long pushed through the field for the win.
After the race, Tomkins was asked if the crew had more: "Fook yeah! We were just cruising mate!
"It seems the harder we go, the slower we go; that's what happened to us in the heat. When we go a little easier, we go faster. I don't think we sped up at the end of the race; I reckon that the other crews slowed down."
Of the effect of the crowd: "I was actually thinking about it during the race, that I could get used to this, especially on Saturday!" Long agreed that the crowd really helps, and Tomkins capped it off: "We'll give 'er everything."
Yugoslavia also advanced, placing second ahead of the US. If there's a weakness in this US boat, it is likely Sebastian's fitness, which must be compromised by his weeks of recuperation. Given what he's been through, this pair is on fire, and if they can patch together a nice final 500 in the final, will be right in the medal hunt.
"We're getting better with each row, getting back to where we were," Murphy said. "the good thing is that there are definitely things we can improve from today. we came in third, but it's not like we had the row of our lives today. we experimented with something new in the sprint today, and think we can make another small change again. if we can tack on a sprint to what we did today, we'll be okay."
After what I think was an admirable Olympic campaign, the US double failed to qualify in their final. They drew the defending World Champs and the bronze medal Hungarians; Germany placed second between the Slovenians and Hungarians for the second of three spots in the A final, with the USA in fourth, five seconds off the pace. The US double might have a decent B final in them.
In the other semi, the Norway, Italy, and Poland advanced; the Norwegian crew The Norwegian double, third in 1999 and second in Lucerne, is their country's priority boat, and the Italian crew was beefed up late this summer with the addition of Sartori, who comes off a sixth place finish in the single in 1999.
At least the US crew got the luck of the draw; the other semi, with the top three from Lucerne, and the world-record holding Norwegian crew, was the most brutal draw we've seen at this regatta.
The GBR four is showing almost effortless speed; they were at an easy 35 the whole way. The US was rowing tenaciously, up in the high 30s through the middle 1000. The French pressed them repeatedly from only a half-length back, but the crew maintained, the lead with solid, reliable rowing - there was no point where I felt they were in deep trouble of failing to qualify. Advancers: GBR Slovenia USA
"We had a good third 500, but I thought the last 500 was a little conservative," said USA's Wolf Moser. " We were just protecting our lead, keeping the French (in the adjacent lane) off our hip and not paying that much attention to the leaders. you can't do that in a final in this event; i'd like to open it up in the sprint, and we're going to need it."
The other semi was the toughest draw of the day, with the three crews that beat the GBR in Lucerne - Italy, New Zealand, and Australia, in the fight with Norway.
Norway made a stunning go of it early on, and looked almost a lock, with a solid 2/3 length lead over fourth place at the 1000, but faded terrifically down the stretch; their third 500 was the fifth slowest in the field.
Once again, the Aussies rode the crowd to win the photo finish over the Italians by 0.28 seconds, followed by New Zealand, who went over the line in third at about 90% power. Advancers: Australia Italy New Zealand
Across the two semis, the total time differential among the qualifiers was three seconds; this will be one intense final.
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