Tuesday's racing saw all the kids jump in the pool, metaphorically speaking: every event is now underway, to include both the Women's and Men's eights.
The US Women's Eight had "just" a race for lanes, but they made the most of it, finding a rhythm about 300 meters in that drove them through the Olympic Champion Canadians and signaled that the old North American rivalry in the eights may see a suspenseful new chapter written here in Varese.
The Men's Eight had a proper heat, with the undefeated British eight no less, in a one-to-go progression. The US was third, but pushed the Romanians who pressed the British--and, with all three crews overlapping at the finish, the US Men's eight will be looking to find their way into the final through Friday's rep in that event.
The two other events with first races today had mixed results: Andrew Mangan, in the PR1 Single, had a tough heat in his first international race, but will have a repechage chance tomorrow, while the Light Women's Pair rowed a very strong prelim race, and took second after closing hard on the Italian pair in the final 500 meters.
Today's reps went well for Mary Jones Nabel in the Light Single, the US Women's Four, and the PR3 Mixed Four, as all three advanced, but the Men's Quad could not make it through.
In Other News, With Other Crews
- The Italian LW2x, winners a year ago in Tokyo, were a surprise yesterday when they got sent to the reps; today they edged Poland by just 0.03 seconds to move into the semis
- The Chinese Men's Quad, winners at Henley, also made an unexpected detour through the Reps, but came through today just behind Estonia and ahead of Norway to make the semis
- The German Eight, so recently a powerhouse, limped home in a distant 4th behind Canada, The Netherlands, and the Australians. The Germans are missing a few athletes, who could not get time off from their jobs for Worlds.
Women's Eight, to Final
With just six entries--due in part to traditional teams like Britain and Germany declining to enter this year--the normally robust Women's Eight field started with a preliminary race for lanes. Canada led the field, with four of their Tokyo Olympic gold medalists aboard in the stern three and coxswain Kristin Kit. The Americans, who fell slightly back off the start, got into a rhythm and nudged past Canada just in time to cross the 1500 meter mark with the lead. The USA stopped the clock just under two seconds ahead of the Canadians. The Dutch, Australians and Romanians were tightly packed about a length behind, with China further back.
All six crews will race again, for real, on Sunday, where we can expect to see some different tactics when the places really count, but it was a first place that the US was happy about afterwards..
"We really wanted to go out, have a great race, and practice our racing as a crew," said bow seat Molly Bruggeman.
"We've made an intention to really enjoy all the strokes that we get to have together as a boat because they're few and far between, with the pair doubling up. We're just really happy to be here and I'm really happy to be back on the squad and with my teammates, who are doing an amazing job racing."
The US did move though Canada with a stronger base rhythm through the middle of the race, so it did not look like the final result was simply a matter of one crew choosing to sprint even though it was a preliminary race. It looked the US really clicked into some serious base speed and never looked back.
"I would credit that to our stern pair and our coxswain," said Bruggeman. "Maddie and Claire have a really solid rhythm and they've just figured out how to translate that to the rest of us. All we do is listen to Hannah and follow what they're doing. So there's really nothing more to it."
Men's Eight, to Reps
The two heats in the Men's Eights advanced just one crew each: Britain and a somewhat surprising Canada, which tracked down and finished off the strong Dutch crew in this round (must be those ear plugs we talked about in yesterday's report).
The US men raced in Britain's heat, but moved well, with Romania, to establish them selves in a lead group of three--one that the highly-touted GB eight could not shake.
"It was a good start for this first 2k with this crew together," said coxswain Jimmy Catalano. "We could have pushed that middle thousand a little bit stronger, but I think we got off the line pretty clean and how we wanted to: with the pack.
"Once we hit the 500, we definitely want to push it a little bit more next time, going for the 1500. We have more space to go faster in that middle 1000.
"We've been working on a quick step, suspending weight off into the handle as long as we can, and then keeping that shape around the back turn to where the handle's out in front. When we have all those, it feels like the boat's just flying: picking up out of the water, staying at speed and just absolutely crushing it."
PR1 Single, to Reps
Andrew Mangan's heat was a tough draw: in addition to the Ukrainian Paralympic Champ, the British sculler, Ben Pritchard also made the final in Tokyo (in fact, all six A Finalists from 202One raced here today, with five advancing, along with the Italian sculler who won the European Champs last month.)
Mangan, of course, is just getting started in this event: today was his first international race and, according to USRowing's Para High Performance Director Ellen Minzner, he showed a lot of improvement today compared to his speed even a few months ago at his uncontested trial.
He told row2k that he is committed to the long term in this event:
"Both my coach Sasha [Bailey] and I have the goal to go to Paris. We've been training a lot this summer. Obviously, this race is a huge learning opportunity, but we're looking forward over the next year to the next worlds to qualify--and towards how can we get faster: a big part of the PR1 is the rigging, the seat, and how you adjust that.
"We are excited about what the next couple of years can hold for us. I'm still pretty new in the PR1 sport. This is really my second season of competing, so I definitely have a ways to go. But it's super exciting to be here."
Light Women's Pair, to Final
The US Light Women's pair of Elaine Tierney and Solveig Imsdahl made the most of their four-boat preliminary race, throwing down such a strong piece that they very nearly caught race leader Italy by the line. The pair, which trains out of the Vesper Boat Club in Philadelphia (and not, as was coming over the public address system here would have it, Vesper Boat Club on the Potomac), will get another shot in their final on Friday.
"For today, we just wanted to stay internal," said bow seat Imsdahl, "practicing doing a full 2k with other boats next to us."
"We're used to practicing on our own," added Tierney, "Sometimes with other people, but not necessarily other pairs, so we're used to focusing on ourselves. We just wanted to do that today: not get distracted by everything and just have a good race."
When asked who their best sparring partners night be back home on the Schuylkill, the pair laughed: "Each other!"
"We definitely have more speed for Friday. Our start was not as spicy as it can be," said Imsdahl, who added that she was so focused that she did not even realize how close they were to the Italians until they heard the cheering at the finish.
"I just stare at Lanie's back and match her," she explained.
"And I just try to steer straight," laughed Tierney.
Light Women's Single, to Semi
Mary Jones Nabel's trip to the reps here was a bit of a surprise, given her two World Cup wins earlier this season, but she took it in stride and rowed a much stronger piece today, rowing down both South Africa's Kirsten Mccann and Switzerland's Eline Rol to win the rep.
"I was really happy with my race," said Jones Nabel afterwards. "I had some things I wanted to improve on from the heat and I really executed the race plan as I wanted to, so I was happy with the result--and happy with taking a positive step forward in the week.
"Something that's been really challenging here [in Racice] is staying warm and dry in the colder conditions. It was really hard to be prepared to race in the heats because the conditions were tough. But today, I had a lot of extra clothes, a lot of extra time in my plan for warming up and getting my body prepared for the race, so that I felt really ready to go, and I thought that paid off.
"When we left New Jersey, it was like 90 degrees every day. We packed our long pants and long shirts thinking it's was going to be cold, but you never really remember what it's like keeping your body ready to perform when it's so damp and cold outside."
Women's Four, to Semi
The US Women's four took third in their rep to head to the semis, eliminating Canada.
"Today was a good step up from what we did the other day," said bow seat Vicky Opitz, a seven-time National Teamer. "Obviously, we were hoping to keep improving on what we did and we made a few small tweaks and we're going to keep building off that for our next race."
"We had some very solid selection pieces which were long and close to 2k," said Erin Boxberger, the three seat. "We are just set on finding the speed we had before: doing the [next] race, advancing and then starting clean slate. We are not scared of anyone and ready to just pick up speed as we go."
PR3 Mixed Four, to Final
The PR3 Mixed Four also rowed a solid rep in what was just the second international 2k as a four for this crew.
Andrew Wigren, one of the two athletes aboard with Worlds experience in the PR3 pair, along with Molly Moore, credited the crew's base pace through the middle:
"It was a better middle 1k from us, and that's we were really looking to do. It was better suspension, and that was a focus going into today's race."
"Obviously, the goal is to make the final--and we accomplished that--but I think more than that it was to improve on yesterday's work," Wigren added. "We're happy that we took a step in the right direction. As a crew, we're still relatively young but we feel like we have a lot of potential."
Coxswain Emilie Eldracher echoed Wigren's optimism:
"The team had a really good mentality going into the race. We had a couple things that we wanted to work on, a couple more angles that we wanted to make nice and sharp, and we felt like we got out there and got even closer to the end goal that we have for Saturday.
"Our mindset for the regatta as a whole is that we want to go fast and have the best race of our lives. As we look forward to Saturday, we're just working on cleaning up all the ends and get a nice little bow tie on the stroke that we've been working on for four months now. Once we get that pretty little bow tie, we'll be good to go."
Worlds Wednesday brings us to the quarterfinals in the heavily subscribed events: M1x, LM1x, LM2x, M2x--plus Andrew Mangan's PR1x Repechage. Tomorrow the Palestinian sculler we profiled earlier in the week also will race: he is in the E Final of his event as he wraps up his first Worlds.
Notes From the Course
Bootsinterner Differenzen: WorldRowing announced that the German men's double had withdrawn from the regatta for medical reasons, but the German Rowing Federation called it like it is on their website, stating that the crew "had to be withdrawn due to internal boat differences and will no longer contest a World Championship race" (per Google Translate). Apparently the German sports media is running with it, whew!
Born to Align: Worlds umpire Georg Gruentzner spent the morning aligning crews in the aligner's hut today, and comes to the job with some unique qualifications; he did his studies and spent his early career as a surveyor.
No Bike Zone: Coaches have to dismount in the boating area now that things are super busy--though apparently scootering's cool, go figure. One coach, walking his bike, joked about being forced to get his steps in.
Birthday at the Start: quite a few birthdays here in Racice that don't normally fall "in season" and today's was Detlev Seyb's--World Rowing's official photographer and all-around great guy--on the starting dock:
Best Visual Metaphor for Racice 2022? well, at least so far, it might just be this puddle of rain in a Czech blade: