Where to start today -might as well go to the beginning. Racing started early today with a string of B finals, which failed to live down to their name as the petite finals - the Olympic stakes in the B finals played out dramatically in the results in a way that they simply did not in the A finals. All the B finals were deep and very close, while many of the A finals featured large swaths of open water separating the competitors.
B Finals Report
As unhappy as the US squad might have been to have so many crews in the B finals, they had to be consoled by the results today; in every case the crews made the Olympic qualifying cut - the men's and women's pairs, the men's and women's doubles, and the men's four.
The women's pair, which included Portia Johnson in the bow in only her first race of the day - she would race again (and win again) 2.5 hours later in the women's four - needed to come top two in the B final (top eight overall), and stormed back from an early deficit behind the Russians and Canadians to plow their bow over the line first by the finish. It wasn't to be any easy task; the B final included four countries that had placed in the A final in 2006. The defending champ Canadians went with them to place second for the other spot in the Games.
Not to be outdone, the men's pair came back from fully last place with 500 to go to place second by the line - anyone who watched this crew race on Mercer Lake would not have been surprised to see them pull it off, but there's no doubt that some of the folks in their race were ambushed by their sprint. The crew needed only to place top 11 overall, but once they start a sprint, they're going to reel some crews in as they did day after day a few weeks back.
US men's pair stroke Kyle Larson said the crew just tried to "stay cool; we knew we had done it (sprint) before, but hadn't quite done it here, but still felt we could do it. We knew we just had to race to beat one crew, but once we started we just kept going." Coach Tim McLaren had reengineered the crew's rhythm a bit over the past few weeks, and Larson just leaned on the work they had done. "It didn't feel only like the end of this race, but like the end of the past few weeks, and the whole year before. Now my goal will be to get things to keep going for Beijing."
With two to qualify in the women's double final, the US W2x endured a true nailbiter; the crew raced in third for about 1980 meters before sneaking through right at the line to pip the Australian crew by a true pip margin of 0.07 seconds; whew. Ten minutes later, the US men's double spared their supporters quite this level of drama by leading the race almost the whole way before finally finishing third, but still in a pretty comfortable Games qualifying position.
The US men's four was looking for some redemption today, but had to settle for an Olympic qualifying spot as the Czech crew exploded out to an early lead they never relinquished. The US crew ran in third to the 500, and second the rest of the way, but couldn't muster the finishing speed to win the petite. At this point it's impossible to know if we'll see more of this and the other sweep lineups next year, but with all the men's heavyweight sweep crews qualified for the Olympics, but now eleven months out from the Games, these athletes will be looking to improve their prospects and their lot for Beijing.
In the one non-Olympic B final of the day, the US coxed pair led almost the whole way to take seventh overall.
For the United States, Michelle Guerette's trip to the medals stand alongside legends and World Champs Karsten and Neykova marked a few highpoints on the day; this is Guerette's second medal in this Olympic cycle, and it's undeniable that she is among the top contenders for Beijing (even if it was close enough that she had to cross her fingers while waiting for the official results). We're posting our post-race interview with Michelle in our video features, so I'll let that stand in for extensive quotes, but she has certainly advanced light years from her days rowing like a "beast on a tightrope" as she described her spare pair way back in Seville in 2002.
In the same event, Ekaterina Karsten did not quite show the dominant form she has of late; she may have even slipped into third position behind Neykova and Guerette for a stroke or two. Karsten had enough in reserve to grab yet another gold medal, however, followed by Neykova. There is a long tradition of a truly great sculler like Neykova having the unlucky timing to row at the same time as another slightly greater sculler like Karsten; they are worthy adversaries, but you have to feel for Rumyana some days.
The most appropriate reaction to the men's single race was simply to shake your head - how in heck does a guy whomp on a field like this in the way that Drysdale did today? With about 250 to go, he had a stretch of open water on everyone, and even seemed to start to drop his rating as the line approached; yeesh.
Drysdale credits his speed to the group of NZ athletes training together: "We have a great competitive group of guys, and train hard together and push each other to get better. There are so many good guys in this field (the M1x) that you need to do a lot of hard work to get here."
Drysdale had a cold earlier this week, but did not let it bother him; "I still had a bit of a cold today, but it didn't really affect me in the race. I wanted to get out and dominate from the front, and though it took me a little while to get out there, once I had some room I felt I could pull away any time I wanted to; I felt really good. The guys came back a little at the end, but I felt pretty comfortable by then.
"I felt bloody good at the 1000," he continued. "Olaf Tufte has one of the most dangerous second halfs anywhere, and I was surprised that he was ahead, as it's not usually the case, but maybe he was paying a little more for it."
After Worlds, Drysdale is going to visit Beijing "to have a bit of a look around at the course. Then it's time to forget this result and start work for next year." The squad reassembles on October 1, but asked what he will do tonight, Drysdale said "Yeah, I'll have a few beers tonight and see how it goes."
Hometown favorite Marcel Hacker was never really in the hunt; as he rowed on this stretch of water all year, he played the gracious host after the race, however, pulling in to Drysdale's boat to congratulate him. Hacker might have indulged in a bit too much Marcel Hacker Show this week; the last time he had an extremely demonstrative week off of the water he also faded by the end of the racing. With a guy like Hacker, he might be damned if he acts out, and damned if he doesn't, so who is to say.
In the women's pair, the biggest happenstance was an extremely poorly timed crab in the Australian boat; after leading the race the whole way, as the field came up in the final 15 strokes the Aussies crabbed so badly that their boat veered into the neighboring lane where the Germans were; the Germans miraculously kept their composure as the Australian bowball danced around their blade tips and powered to a silver medal as the Aussies finished the race and the lane and directly behind the German crew.
The men's pair was among the toughest events this year in the estimation of many regatta watchers; it is all the more astounding how easy the Aussie pair of Ginn and Free made the whole thing look. At the finish line, they were over five seconds clear of anyone else in the race, and this without a sprint of any consequence; they looked almost like they were paddling. And it's not like the other crews weren't trying; silver medalist George Bridgewater of New Zealand ended up in the medical tent instead of on the medal stand; when the crews posed for photos after the race, the crew members pretended to put their arms around the absent Bridgewater. Subsequently, a volunteer in street clothers rowed the bow seat back to the dock behind Twaddle; it might have been a thrill for him, as he seemed like a novice rower, but Twaddle was just trying not to end up in the drink.
The pair medal podium was an all-Commonwealth affair - AUS NZL GBR.
The ascendance of the Chinese rowing program hasn't really played out as dramatically at these Worlds as some predicted, but the Chinese women's double has certainly made an impression, beating the Evers-Swindell twins today by open water; the NZ sisters were subsequently only two one-hundredths ahead of the GB crew. The defending champ Australian crew failed to qualify their crew for the Games this year; it will be a long trip for them to get to Lucerne next to try to qualify the crew, ouch.
The men's double scull medal podium was all about age differences - the Slovenian and French crews brought two children each up to the stand with them, while one spot over was 41-year-old Jueri Jaanson taking bronze for Estonia. The kids were the children of Slovenia's Itzok Cop and France's Adrien Hardy; they attended complete with stuffed animals and ball toys.
In the men's four, Great Britain's long reign atop the heap came to an abrupt end today as the GB crew was denied medals entirely; the New Zealand crew confirmed their solid form this week with a big sprint to deny Italy and the Netherlands the gold; these two finished in that order ahead of GB, Slovenia, and France.
As we mentioned earlier this week, the New Zealand crew (who row2k video expert Oli R. tipped for the win earlier this week) is coached by former American coach Chris Nilsson; watching the race, Nilsson had a couple uneasy moments, but was finally comfortable as the end of the race neared.
"We were quietly confident that if we could get near the front coming into the last 250, we had a chance to win," he said after the race. "There was more back and forth early in the race than I expected, but inside the 250 meter mark I was pretty sure they could win it." Three-seat Eric Murray had a similar thought: "We know we're sprinters, and knew if we were up there at the finish we could do it."
On the medal stand, the PA cut out in the middle of the New Zealand national anthem; the crowd booed loudly in disapproval, and then the NZ four took up the song themselves at full voice; the ovation from the crowd at the conclusion was even louder than was the booing. Well played.
Portia Johnson got out of the boat after her warmdown from the women's pair at around 9:40am; by around 11:20, she was back in the bow of another boat, warming up for the women's four final (photo sequence starts here). By a couple minutes after noon, she had her second win on the day, this one for a gold medal; I know folks have won a couple medals in World Championships when doubling up, but the number of people who have won two races on the same day has to be an extremely short list. The crew did it in classic even-splitting fashion, rowing from third after the start into first by 500 to go, and mostly cruised it in to the line. The crew is a mix of youth and experience; to prove the point, note that three-seat Rachel Jeffers's high school novice coach was stroke Megan Dirkmaat.
I've just now noticed that Portia's name is officially registered as Portia McGee in the regatta releases; duly noted!
Our galleries yesterday showed an exuberant celebration by the coxswain of the Polish men's eight; the same coxswain did the same thing in the bow section of the gold medal Polish coxed pair today; it's a rare gold medal for the Polish squad. The Canadian pair pulled back from fifth to nab a medal at the finish.
GB ex-pat Jen Goldsack looked on track for gold all week, but had to settle for silver as defending World Champ Dutch sculler Marit Van Eupen leaned heavily on her experience after a trip through the reps this week and won the gold with a pinch of style. The two scullers put open water behind them by the 1000; Canadian Melanie Kok had the third spot all to herself, putting two North Americans on the podium together for the first time this year. Goldsack felt she had a shot at the gold, but gave Van Eupen credit for her racing savvy.
"I was hoping to get the gold, but Marit's experience and talent as a racer came through today," Goldsack said. "She rowed the savvier race, and I had a good row - I thought I had the best race I could have on the day - so I am pleased at least to have pushed her."
Questions have been bandied about the media room whether Goldsack would continue rowing for the US or return to the GB fold, but it appears her new teammates might have her around for a bit. (One tipoff here was the way Goldsack pointed to the US flag on her "kit" on the podium.)
"There is a very talented squad of lightweight women in the States, and I'm very proud to be part of an amazing squad," she said. "I'm really excited about adding to the mix." Goldsack expects to take "a bit of a busman's holiday" casting about for a place to live and get situated near the Princeton Training Center. She hopes to get some US scullers to take in some European races this fall - "I think they have a lot to offer" - and looks forward to taking a winter training trip: "They traditionally go on winter training trips to warmer weather, so I'm looking forward to a bit of sun in the snowy months!"
In the light men's single, Kiwi Duncan Grant ran the show today; like Drysdale before him, he rowed in the last 500 with an open water lead. US sculler Ivan Baldychev struggled desperately early and never got on track; still, this was not a bad campaign for a guy who started sculling only this past year.
The lightweight eight was taken by an ecstatic Dutch crew, followed by the German and Italians in the medal spots; the US crew trailed the field for most of the race before sneaking past the Poles at the line to take fifth.
After a solid year last year, there were no medals for the US adaptive squad this year, testament to the way several other countries have upped the ante (photos start here). As it went, the most amazing show on the medal stand came from the Brazilian supporters after Claudia Santos victory: first, team members sang and beat drums, then when the national anthem played all teared up, and finally a full-blown samba drum band complete with scantily-clad samba dancers materialized on the medals stand; few have ever seen anything like it.
In the men's single, GB sculler Tim Aggar used his exceptional length to understroke the field and win ahead of defending champ Dominic Moneypenny; Brazil also woth the mixed double, and Germany gave the hometown folks the host country's only gold medal of the day in the four.
Finally, the grandstands were completely full today, and were full for almost the entire slate of racing; several crew members commented how much they enjoyed the noise. Bring on the Games!
Men's Single Scull B Final (M1x)
Andre Vonarburg (SUI): "It's great to qualify. I had a heart operation just seven weeks ago. I had a hole in my heart and they had to take from my thigh to fix it. I missed the World Cup in Lucerne. I was watching from the shore. So it was great to be here and qualify. Now I have holidays."
Women's Pair B Final
Carsten Hassing (CAN) - coach of Darcy Marquardt and Jane Rumball: "We are happy to qualify but I'm not content with the result. Things haven't worked out for us this year, and I take it on my shoulders. The girls worked hard this year. But yes, it's good to have another boat qualify."
Men's Pair B Finals
Jaroslaw Godek (POL): "We are very happy for Olympic qualification, and seventh place. Next year is for a medal at Olympic Games."
Jochen Urban (GER): "It was good to beat Croatia. It was always close in World Cup races before. They are good rowers. We wanted the A final but we're ok with Olympic qualification."
Men's Double Sculls B Final
Ante Kusurin (CRO): "It was a race to the first 1000, and then in the 1500 we made it good. It was tough racing. I think its going to be an easier job for next year. So far this year we only had three months training together and I was doing sweep before that. I was at Oxford (doing a masters degree) this year and University of Washington before that. We'll have a whole year to scull and make the final."
Stinjn Smulders (BEL): "I'm very happy. We're still somewhere else. We still need to come back to reality. That took a lot. It's a very tough field and we had a very bad season so we're happy. The difference between the C Final and making the A final is very little it's such a tense field."
Women's Single Sculls (W1x)
Ekaterina Karsten - Khodotovitch (BLR) - Gold medallist "Of course I am very happy and I was concentrating during the race. The atmosphere was brilliant, and I want to do the same next year."
Rumyana Neykova (BUL) - Silver medallist "I rowed form my two kids, one for each grip. I am very happy. The atmosphere at the grandstand woke me up and gave me a big boost for the last 200 metres"
Michelle Guerette (USA) - Bronze medallist "I looked over, saw Mirka and knew I could lift more weight. I think I just got up to her with a last couple of power shots. This race was a different race than the once before. It was like running. I just kept a steady breathing. It was exciting to see I can go with the others. I am so excited to be up there. See you in Beijing?"
Men's Single Sculls (M1x)
Mahe Drysdale (NZL) - Gold medallist "I knew I was fast. But there are so many quality guys in this race that you never know what people will do on the day. Tufte was the surprise today, starting off so fast. And I thought Hacker would be stronger at home. This was much better than last year. I hate losing so this was big test coming here as a double World Champion. Winning here tops off a great year. Now I will have to keep working and come back even stronger next year. "
Ondrej Synek (CZE) - Silver medallist "It was fun. I was tired in the heat, quarter and semifinal. But this race was a satisfaction for me."
Olaf Tufte (NOR) - Bronze medallist "Considering the problems I had before the champs the third place is really not that bad. I gave everything I could. The atmosphere was one of the best I've ever experienced."
Women's Pair (W2-)
Yuliya Bichyk, Natallia Helakh (BLR) - Gold medallists "There is not much too say, except that it was a really, really good race." (Yuliya Bichyk)
Nicole Zimmermann, Elke Hipler (GER) - Silver medallists "We were already super happy that we made it to the final. There were certain expectations from us but we just did our thing and this was our race and this is our medal. But we didn't expect it. When we passed the Australians I knew this could become a medal. Then I thought shut your eyes and row and row and row." (Nicole Zimmermann) Viorica Susanu (ROU) - Bronze medallists "I am very happy. We had a two-year break, as Georgeta had a baby. This is a huge success for us. Georgeta's baby is at home with her husband."
Men's Pair (M2-)
Drew Ginn (AUS) - Gold medallist "It was very hard, was a very tough race, of course the toughest one of the champs. We wanted to go first straight from the start, we didn't even want to give an inch advantage to the others. Our plan for tonight is to celebrate with lots of friends and families."
Nathan Twaddle (NZL) - Silver medallist "We had a good first 1000 then the Australians started pushing away and after that it was hard to follow them. Still, I enjoyed the race. The atmosphere is awesome; half of my family is here. It is great to have so many supporters here in Munich."
Colin Smith, Matthew Langridge (GBR) - Bronze medallist "It was a great race. We focused on the French and beat them. The Aussies are a different story. Don't know what they did. They blew us away. " (Matthew Langridge) "Great race. My partner is one of the top guys. Now I am looking forward to harder things next year." (Colin Smith)
Women's Double Sculls (W2x)
Qin Li, Liang Tian (CHN) - Gold medallists "We felt very confident during the race. As long as we keep the high performances we can stay together in this double."
Georgina Evers-Swindell, Caroline Evers-Swindell (NZL) - Silver medallists "This was a really tough race, but we didn't expect it to be any easier." (Georgina) "The atmosphere is amazing, there is a huge amount of celebration on the grandstand. It's great to have so many supporters coming all the way to Munich to support us. It's great to be here, but after three months in Europe you miss home, so I am really looking forward to go home." (Caroline)
Elise Laverick, Anna Bebington (GBR) - Bronze medallists "Don't know how close we were. We left ourselves too much to do. This wasn't planned." (Elise Laverick)
Men's Double Sculls (M2x)
Luka Spik, Iztok Cop (SLO) - Gold medallists "This morning I had the first place in my head. But in a field like this you never know. I was nervous and the race was very close. It's a good finish of the 2007 season which looking at the World Cup results wasn't our best. But I think we have quite good chances to improve for next year. Especially with regard to rowing technique and more kilometres." (Luka Spik)
Jean-Babtiste Macquet, Adrien Hardy (FRA) - Silver medallists "It was a great race." (Macquet) "At the last 500 the Slovenians got away. We tried to catch them, but we couldn't." (Hardy)
Tonu Endrekson, Jueri Jaanson (EST) - Bronze medallists "I was tired. The last 250m were very hard. The GB double wanted to catch us, but luckily for us we were in front." (Tonu Endrekson)
Men's Four (M4-)
Andy Triggs Hodge, GBR (4th): "There are a whole host of themes to say why we didn't medal. We still have to have confidence in the people behind us. We know we're strong guys. We know change has to happen between the World Cups and the World Championships. This year we came in trying to start again (with new technique). Everyone is pushing forward. I don't know what we have to do, but there is something out there. It's about next year."
James Dallinger, NZL (Gold): How do you feel about beating the undefeated Brits? "No one is unbeatable."
Carl Meyer, James Dallinger, Eric Murray, Hamish Bond (NZL) - Gold medallists "I expected the British to lead, but Italy went so fast. We were going back and forth during the whole race. Surely, there will be a big party tonight. Thanks to the Germans for their great hospitality, I really enjoyed it. (Meyer)
"It was totally amazing, we gelled together really well. We trained really well, we all had the same goal. I was U23 World Champion last year, but this is another level! We didn't know where we were going to get, but knew it would be close and we had a chance with our sprint." (James Dallinger)
Geert Cirkel, Matthijs Vellenga, Jan-Willem Gabriels, Gijs Vermeulen (NED) - Silver medallists "It would have been great to win Gold. But winning Silver is also great. The last 300m were good for us. The Italians came flying in once they got to the grandstand - don't know if it was the wind condition there or the spectators. The British result is a bit surprising." (Geert Cirkel)
Carlo Mornati, Alessio Sartori, Niccolo Mornati, Lorenzo Carboncini (ITA) - Bronze medallists "Great race. We are very happy to have taken a medal. Very much so." (Carlo Mornati) "It was a great race and very intense." (Lorenzo Carboncini)
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Single Sculls (1x)
Double Sculls (2x)
Quadruple Sculls (4x)
Double Sculls (2x)
Single Sculls (1x)
Double Sculls (2x)
Quadruple Sculls (4x)
Double Sculls (2x)