Unlike Athens, where you could buy your way into any venue with a 20 year-old lapel pin from the Garden State Games, the security guards here have been true to their missions (polite code for 'dogmatic to the max'). That all changed during the women's quad race. When it appeared as though the Chinese women's quad might get a medal, all guards, vendors, cooks, translators, janitors, everyone with Chinese citizenship, suddenly left their posts and ran for the nearest viewing point. And when the Chinese quad caught the UK quad in the last few strokes and took the gold, cheers echoed from one end of the rowing course to the other. It's no exaggeration to say that for a minute, the rowing course sounded as loud as the swimming stadium.
The incredibly accomplished UK women's quad appeared inconsolable on the awards podium, which is more than understandable. They had gone out hard, selling their soul for a length lead in the first 1000, and then tried to hold on for dear life. The Chinese quad, who did not row with any great technique or precision, worked them down, stroke after stroke, and then sprinted like crazy. The UK scullers had nothing left to match the Chinese.
After Lucerne, visions of medals danced in the air for the US men's quad. A first-time ever gold? Or a silver like the US men in 1996? Or a bronze? Not today. The quad is tough event. That bit of truth was also experienced first-hand by the Australians, who set a world's best time in the heat but finished fourth in the finals.
The Polish quad pulled off a tough assigned: winning when they were favored to win. Their technique was unassailable, with perfect catch timing and common power application. From bow to stern, these Polish scullers each took only a modest bite of water per stroke, unlike many of the crews who seem intent on burying the shaft up to the button.
The US women's eight rowed a fantastic final. They sized up the conditions this afternoon ? calm water with just a hint of headwind - and cranked off a huge move at the 1000. Then it was a game of catch me if you can. All 5 crews tried to catch them ? none did.
The rowers you can never count out are those from the Netherlands. Back in 2004, the Netherlands men's eight nearly caught the US crew, after the US led by a length at the 1000. That's pretty much what happened here in the women's eight. After coming from way back, the Netherlands women caught the Canadians on the last stoke to take bronze.
The men's eight was Canada's race, right from the first stroke. Just like the US women, the Canadians had such confidence in their abilities that they were willing to go out high and hard and get that length early on. It worked to perfection.