WorldRowing FISA today confirmed that the Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta, scheduled for May 15-17 in Lucerne, Switzerland, would proceed as scheduled.
The regatta, and the Olympic prospects for crews from a number of countries, including six US boats (the Men's Single, Double, Pair, Quad, and Lightweight Double, as well as the Women's Lightweight Double), had been in limbo due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns in Europe, as well as issues related to fairness. With crews from around the world looking at various travel, health, quarantine and expenses scenarios, FISA had been waiting to make the determination on whether holding the regatta would make for an unfair situation for some federations versus others.
"World Rowing is profoundly aware of the obstacles national teams are facing in taking part in international events," stated the official WorldRowing press release. "In order to make the most informed decision, information was gathered through a global survey of all Member Federations. At this time a number of Member Federations would face quarantines when returning home, and both Italy and Switzerland currently have arrival quarantine measures in place for arrivals from certain countries. However, both countries have sport-related exemptions which can be used to eliminate the arrival quarantines."
Implications for USRowing are that the six crews still aiming for Tokyo qualification retain an opportunity to race and qualify for the Olympics in Tokyo, pending trials qualification. Trials in four of these events, the Men's Single and Double, and the Men's and Women's Lightweight Double, began today in Sarasota.
Travel, lodging and training considerations for teams attending the FOQR are expected to be intense, with WorldRowing and the Lucerne LOC enforcing strict hygiene guidelines. Teams not following these guidelines risk immediate disqualification from the event.
Additionally, the FOQR traditionally runs back to back with the World Cup II regatta in Lucerne, but this year, the events will be run as distinct regattas, meaning that crews who are only participating in the World Cup regatta will not be permitted to be on site in Lucerne until after the FOQR is completed and the venue has been completely sanitized. "All boats must be removed from the venue on 17 May and no training will be allowed on 18 May," the WorldRowing FISA release stated.
US athletes with an eye towards Tokyo qualification were gratified by the news that the FOQR was still on; for some athletes, the announcement occurred literally while they were on the water at trials.
"It was fantastic news to hear that FOQR was given confirmed before launching," said Michelle Sechser, who along with Molly Reckford posted the winning time in the Light Women's Double at the trials today. "It helped silence any lurking doubts that I'm sure everyone in a not-yet-qualified boat class is feeling."
John Graves, who competed in the single at trials, concurred with Sechser's assessment. "I decided I wouldn't fret about it, and just be grateful to get the opportunity to race this week, but that is certainly encouraging as that is the target."
WorldRowing FISA is expected to release further guidance and logistical information on the event in the coming months.