Woah, what a day.
First off, the Canadian men's pair was "excluded" (often referred to as disqualified) after it was determined that they interfered with the South African pair in the last few hundred meters of their heat. The Canadian pair was approx. 1.5 meters into SA's lane, and approaching the finish line the South African stroke caught a big crab, and almost lost his oar. The South African pair was probably in qualifying position when it happened, but finished fourth behind Germany, Serbia Montenegro, and Canada. The SA pair filed an objection on the water, which resulted in a preliminary ruling against the Canadians, resulting in their exclusion from the event. The Canadians then filed a written protest of the ruling, declaring that there was no contact between the two crews. The appeal then went to the Jury, which declared that no contact was required to constitute interference. Canada then appealed the decision to the FISA executive committee, the final step in the three-step process, which at 5pm decided to permit Canada to row in the B final.
Dave Calder, bow seat of the Canadian men's pair, said immediately after the race: "We were still three feet away from them, our oars never touched, when you're at 1990 meters into a 2k race, you're tired, you make mistakes; the South Africans made a mistake. We made a mistake by being in their lane, but we did not cause them to miss that stroke. It is not our fault, and I'm really disappointed at the preliminary verdict from FISA, and we're counter-protesting."
Over to the men's double; the US men's double rowed up from sixth place to take the third and final qualifying position by 1/100th of a second over Norway; this is the first time since 1984 that a US double has made the Olympic final; a crew made the final at Worlds in 1993.
Subsequently the Norwegian team asked to review the photo finish, insisted that the photographic evidence was inconclusive, and asked for a new full review. The appeal went again to the Jury, which agreed with the Norwegians, and a dead heat was declared, some four hours after the end of the race. A dead heat is the only situation in which FISA will permit a seven-boat final, and we'll have just that come Saturday.
Immediately after the race, and before any appeal had been lodged, I talked to Henry and Aquil.
What did you do in these last 30 strokes to punch through to qualify?
Aquil: I really have to give thanks to Shaq'ed, a little band I play in in Princeton with Ed Hewitt. But that last thirty strokes, we have nothing to lose out there. We've been practicing these past couple of months, and we knew that we went out with a pretty fast base speed. so, i think we just had the rhythm that set us up for that last 500.
Henry: That's what set it up - the sprint is determined by the base. If we don't have an efficient base, we're not going to go anywhere on the sprint. But what we had today was a nice, tapping along base for the first 1400. Coming through 13-1400, we felt fresh, we knew we had gears to go, and Shaq called the sprint and we executed. He called it exactly right, we executed it and crossed the line, and we didn't know who won.
Officially I saw you in fifth at one point. How did you drive yourselves up into the fray? Aquil: I looked across and I knew we were in fifth or sixth. I wasn't really phased, because it was the beginning of the race. It's one of those things where everybody is going after it, but I knew we had a good solid rhythm, and once we started moving, everyone else was spinning their wheels, didn't have much more to give, except for Norway, who just put up a helluva fight.
Henry: We may have caught them at 18 (hundred), and they pretty much stopped our move. I don't know, but it seemed like it was a while that we were neck and neck. We were closing the whole way, then when we closed it up I think it was two even boats for the last 200.
In the other M2x heat, the separation between the A and B final was a mere 0.06 seconds. I've told folks who have asked me about the event that the double doesn't quite register on the US radar like it does in Europe; in many countries with small athlete pools, this is the priority boat, and they have the best two people in the country bar none in the boat. All the more impressive for the US double to push into this company.
Earlier in the day, German single sculler Marcel Hacker failed to make the A final, placing third in his two-to-qualify semi. In another semi, 38-year-old Jueri Jaanson won handily, and heads to yet another A final.
Next, the US women's quad found themselves on the softer end of a photo finish as they took the fourth and final qualifying spot in their rep by 0.02 over Denmark.
Kelly Salchow remember it like this: "We went hard off the line, and lost some ground when we went down to base. It was boats across the lake the whole way, and we kept pushing to try to get more up into the front of the pack, and we'd push and then they'd come back a little bit, and we'd push a little more and then we'd come back, so we weren't being as decisive as we'd like with our moves. Going into our sprint we knew we were in trouble because (laughs) we saw Denmark out of the corner of our eye and knew that they were going to come up fast. We were just racing to the line, and got a little sloppy and just barely, barely held them off."
And finally, the French men's eight vaulted into the A final with a stupendous push past Italy in the final strokes of the race, edging through by 0.36 second to advance along with the Dutch eight. The other rep was almost as tight, with the Canadians besting the Germans by about a half-second, the Brits 1.3 behind out of qualifying spot, following by the Poles two seconds further back.
Bagging Rays at the Games
The grandstands opposite the finish line have yet to fill up; I estimated 1000 people here this morning. It does look like a full-on beach scene, tho, with at least a quarter to a third of the people either shirtless or in bathing suits and bagging rays. Of course, a lot of them are Dutch, so they don't count.
Courting melanoma has to be better than lung cancer, like a couple of photographers at the finish line photo positions; there's something off about firing up a smoke on the dock at the Olympic rowing venue.
Perfect flat conditions at the start of racing, with a very acceptable tailwind toward the end of racing, and excellent water throughout the day. If you ask me, that doesn't make it okay that they were playing surf music over the PA - seems like tempting the gods. On the music tip, about time for that shoutout, eh?
Matthijs Vellenga, Dutch men's eight: "This race was not a present. We made long strokes. At the end the French crew came back strong."
Matthew Wells, GB men's pair: "We were so close and we thought that we were in the final. it was a good and hard race. I didn't believe that we failed, even when we crossed the line. I feel very disappointed, and we were unlucky."
Vaclav Chalupa, CZE M1x: "I'm really happy because I won, I felt very strong during the race." About the final: "It will be a very hard fight. The opponents are very strong, everyone can be first or last. I hope to get a medal."
Ivo Yanakiev, Bulgaria M1x: "I feel perfect. It was expected because I had the chance to do everything I could. I hope to get a medal."
Jueri Jaanson, Estonian M1x: "From the start I tried to get the first place and I did it." About the final: "I'm not thinking about the final, but how I'm going to relax."
Mirka Knapkova, CZE W1x: "I feel perfect. I started the race very well, especially at the first 250m, but later I started to get tired." About her targets: "It's a dream to win a medal. I'm too young, I have all the time. It would be difficult, because my opponents are very strong. I want a good position in the final."