At the close of a quick 90' of B Finals, only 2/3 of it for Olympic events, the first lunch break of the entire week saw a lot of athletes walking on clouds, and others hanging their heads in disappointment and disgust.
The light men's pair has become sometimes tough event, as it tends to include Olympians in waiting, some in development phase, and others ready to pounce on a seat for next year. The same isn't quite true of the light quads; the top contenders for the two Olympic light doubles are often rowing the single at this point, particularly at the B Final level. This wasn't always the case; entries in the ML4x hovered around 18 every year in the early 90s. Thus, the light quads were two boat affairs lacking almost utterly in suspense, although the significant upside is that there are enough entries to spare the events from possible deletion from the Worlds program.
The light men's four was a completely different story; with five of the six spots headed to the Olympics, the race was a desperate scramble not to come last. It fell to the US crew to take that fifth and final spot; relief would not come close to how they must have felt after the result was in. A couple surprise crews topped them and are headed to the Games, particularly Poland and Egypt; both crews were ecstatic after the race, with the Egyptian stroke standing in the stern calling "Allah Akbar!" at full voice, and the Polish stroke doing a cannonball off the stern into the lake. His coach got into the act a short while later, wading out to the boat along the far shore.
For the US, the light men's double is already headed to Europe next year to try to qualify, but the light women's double had a shot at qualification this morning with a top two performance. Despite very good early promise including some decent results in Europe earlier this year, unfortunately they were never really in qualifying position during the race; the summer might have been just a little too long for US lightweights. The two spots went to Jennerich and Cameron from Canada and Casey and Goodsell from Great Britain; the whole thing presents a complicated picture with the presence of Jen Goldsack in the mix; we'll have to see how the cards fall.
Members of the 2008 Canadian squad will almost certainly be headed to Lucerne next year, and after a tough race that ended with less than a second separating third from sixth, the Canadian light double will unfortunately have to join them after being nudged out of the 11th spot by Austria.
Also with five spots on the line, the US men's quad rowed a very competent race to place third in the B Final and lock up a spot in '08; the crew from Cuba held on to edge out a fading Belarus to take the last spot. When you look back over the week, it still provides a jolt to think about how critical the reps were, despite how distant they seem now; you had to be in this B final even to contend for one of these spots, and big rows from both the US crews and the Cuban boat days ago made all the difference.
The women's events are typically a little tougher on the head count; the women's quad B final, for example, was one to go from the B final. This was All the better that the US crew had a good rep, and today it fell to the Australian crew to row from fourth up to first; by the line they had almost a full length, and gthree seat Catriona Sens made it clear they knew what they had earned, belting out "YEAH! F*** YEAH!" a couple lengths over the line.
With one spot on the line in the men's eight, all the marbles went to the Chinese eight, who showed their appreciation for a spot in their home Olympics with unusual exuberance. On the wrong side of the cutoff was the Australian eight, including the great James Tomkins; you wonder if Tomkins will continue his un-retirement given that the crew now needs to travel to Switzerland to try to get the sole men's eight spot to be contested next summer.
At the end of the B finals, with only the five spots in the women's eight still in play, the top three qualifier tally went thusly: Germany 11 crews GB 11 crews US 11 crews
This is a serious issue; the emotional and financial toll of needing to qualify next summer is considerable to say the least.
On to the A Finals!
More quick quotes: Lightweight Women's Double Sculls (LW2x)
Tracy Cameron (CAN)
"I think Lindsay and I have our best races when we are completely focused on being internal. We kept with our out process. In the race we didn't have a sense for the other crews Great Britain and Japan because they were in the outside lanes. Normally there's that intensity right beside us, but we couldn't have that feeling this time. But Lindsay took a look over and we knew in the last 100 meters it was anyone's game. She gave a hard stroke that meant we had to go. We threw everything out technique wise and just attacked for the line. That just came down to the last strokes of the race."
"That's racing, and that's what I love about the sport. When I saw Canada number one on the screen I just put my head down still trying to recover. It took a long time to be able to celebrate."
Hester Goodsell (GBR)
"Never has coming 8th been so great."
Helen Casey (GBR) (was in Athens)
"Everyone was fighting for it. It was so close. Today wasn't about medals. We did what we had to do."
Lightweight men's double sculls (LM2x)
Zsolt Hirling (HUN)
"It was bitter sweet victory. It was a great race. We were first from the start. It was great to see all the other boats behind us. We did a very hard start. We're not a B Final team. We had a very severe injury just three weeks before and I was unable to do anything for a while. Of course we can get back to A Final for a medal at Olympic Games."
Joerg Lehnigk (GER)
"It was a very hard race. A lot of boats were at the same level. Austria came very hard in the last 500 meters. We hung in and it was game over then."
Sebastien Sageder (AUT)
"We are very happy to be fifth. With every step we were lucky. This week was not our best. We had technical problems. We're very lucky to qualify."
Lightweight men's four (LM4-)
Rod Chisholm (AUS)
"It was nice to finish off the regatta with a win. We had a bit of a disappointment in the semis so we thought we had to put things right today."
Roeland Lievens (NED)
"We were glad we came out on top. We rowed quite well this year. The B Final was a bit of a disappointment. Everyone was fighting right to the end."
Women's quadruple sculls (W4x)
Amy Ives (AUS) (originally American, went to school in US but married a Australian)
"I think we really kept our heads in the boat and did what we needed to do. It was really well paced by us, and we kept our cool."
Men's quadruple sculls (M4x)
Sloan Du Ross (USA)
"We started out with a solid start and executed our race plan. We stayed within ourselves. WE were racing to qualify and we accomplished our goal today."
Chris Morgan (AUS)
"A lot of crews really stepped up today. We went in with a lot of confidence for the win. But desperation makes people do strange things. These boats dug deep today. We're a qualifying boat today and we'll be making good for next year. That's the big one."
On Australian crew for next year: "There are very competitive scullers in this boat so I expect it will be hard for other Australian scullers to make it in. But I'm always up for a challenge. I look forward to racing for a spot for next year."
Angel Fournier (CUB)
"Very good for Olympics first time. Very hard race."
Women's eight (W8+)
Sarah Siegelaar (NED) (was in Athens)
"It feels very bad to be out of qualifying, but we had to make sure we were in the right head and still make a good race today and be on the road to Beijing. It's still the B Final, it's still hard not to be in the A Final. But better to leave here with a good feeling than to come last."
Rene Mijnders, coach (NED)
"We are of course satisfied with the race, but we are not satisfied with the rep. I think they rowed better today. We had boat problems that were repaired only yesterday. We are not alone. China is out too. It will be tough racing in Lucerne but we are confident."
Men's eight (M8+)
Xiangdan Wang (CHN)
"We're happy yes!"
After the Chinese men crossed the finish line in the 8+ the cox stook up and clapped. There was lots of laughter and raw expressions of emotion. Once at the dock Chinese men posed for photos with the team and their delegation and stood their oars up. All smiles…
Daniel Menisch (NED) (was in Athens)
"We were just really gutting it out so that we did make it. We needed to win this. It just wasn't happening. We had a good race, but it wasn't as share as we needed to do."