As we're about to be kicked out of the media center for the eighth night running, let's go straight to the big eights - the US women and Canadian men, both favored coming into the regatta, confirmed their stature atop the World eights heap today. The US women got to the medals podium the hard way, through the reps and down the course today to win an insanely tight 2k race; while the Canadians ran away from the field early and kept going.
The US women rowed a very controlled 2k and did not unload any big weapons until late in the race, so that just when it looked like the field was going to draw up even on them, they bolted away for the barn in the last 20 strokes. The final burst was so dramatic that when the camera at the side of the course dropped out at the beginning of the grandstand, it looked like they were going to give up the gold; but by the time most people looked away from the jumbotron and down at the course, they had what looked like unstoppable momentum and an unbeatable lead.
"It was a long week with a lot of tough racing, but we knew coming into today's race that we could do it," bow seat Brett Sickler said after the race. We knew it was going to be ridiculously fast, and we knew we had to be patient in the first 1,000. I think we were all kind of surprised that we were up at that point. When we passed through the 1,000, we knew that we had more, and we gradually increased the rate. With 500 to go, we knew that someone was going to have to row really hard to take it from us. It was the best race of my life so far. I love being a part of this team, and we won this as a team. It was amazing."
Of the long week of racing, Mary Whipple said "Three races helped us to grow as a team, and this victory is a result of it."
The US cause was helped along by somewhat of a slow start by the Romanians; Ana Maria Apachitei said "It was a very good but very hard competition. We always have to be there from the start."
The women's eight was the only event this afternoon in which an Olympic spot was on the line, with only five qualifying; the Canadian eight shadowed the US and may have actually led at times in the first 750 meters, but the scorching pace cost them dearly in the end, and they placed sixth, three seconds off the Germans in fifth. They'll need to try to qualify the boat next summer in Lucerne.
The Canadian men charged for the lead and controlled the race entirely from there; the field was duking it out over places two through six, but the Canadians were completely out of the fray, leading by a few inches of open water at one point on the way to a 1 length victory over Germany followed by Great Britain. Canadian coxswain Brian Price was glad to be back in the middle spot on the medals podium.
"We had a couple years away from the top, and it's great to be back," he said. Stroke Kyle Hamilton commented on the front-loaded race plan. "We were prett confident. We just got in front and and we were able to cruise the middle 1000 pretty well. It is great to be back on top; we want more of that next year.
Seven-seat Adam Kreek was asked if he was concerned whether the crew could repeat this performance in Beijing. "We are completely humble about this race," he said. "This is just a building block for next year. We are a bunch of stonemasons, and we are building a massive road to Beijing starting now." He made the best of the opportunity to celebrate this year, for certain, standing up in the boat to tear off his shirt after the finish line, and singing Oh Canada with gusto.
Five-seat Malcom Howard said of the crew's early lead: "We worked really hard for it, but we felt pretty solid; we have a great group of guys, and we have a lot of fun rowing together." The crew chucked their coxswain in the water, then all switched sides and let Price stroke the boat home; you don't see this too much at the elite level, and they were clearly having a good time.
The British eight took the bronze, and in the offing put their squad atop the points total for the regatta. As the names of the crew members were announced, it slowly dawned on the crowd that the entire bow four was named Tom; when they got to five-seat Josh West, they were almost disappointed. Tom James had this to say: "We had no specific strategy for today. We just wanted to win a medal, if not the race. We had a really great race. Germany on our left was fast, pushed by the crowd, so we just had to hold on to them."
The Germans took the silver; after being all but dismissed by the German press, it was the crowd that got them to the line in the medals; Elf Siemes, GER M8: "To win the silver medal here gets very close to winning the gold last year. To row in front of such a crowd is fantastic. More than half of this success we thank the cheering crowd here."
After a couple promising surges during the race, the US men struggled late in the race to take fourth place. Coach Mike Teti felt his young crew wasn't quite ready for a race this hot in the second 1000; they'll go back to the drawing board in a few weeks.
In the men's 4x, the Polish quad got out to a bruising 4/5 of a length lead at one point; by the end of the race, they were drowning in it a bit, but no one really had a chance to catch them. In the women's 4x, the GB crew spat out the bad taste from last year's racing with a similarly dominant effort in which they controlled the race from the lead completely. The Canadian crew missed the medals by a stretch, although a digger in the first 30 seconds of the race had a lot to do with it; they never really got themselves back in the hunt.
Save for the women's eight, which was a nailbiter until the last 8-10 strokes, the big boat races were mostly decided very early on, and featured big margins, but before the big boats came down the course, the racing was tight all day long, a noticeable departure from many of yesterday's blowout finals.
The lightweight men's four was so nastily contested that only 10 of the 12 medalists made it to the medals podium; both a GB and an Italian oarsman were off losing their bellies in the medical tent. The strokeman of the GB crew eventually made it back to the dock, albeit wobbling and wiping his chin, oof. It was so bad in the Italian boat that the middle pair of the crew had to row the boat back to the dock themselves.
The GB contingent can take some unexpected solace in the fact that while their vaunted heavy men's four didn't make the medals, their somewhat unheralded light men's straight four are World Champions - had to be an unexpected turn of events this year.
In the light men's double, the Danish stroke man had the most creative winner's celebration of the event; he punched the air, waved to the crowd, then made a motion like shooting a machine gun across all six lanes; see it in the row2k video Sunday Winners Reel.
In the light women's double, we saw a very unusual sight at a FISA-run regatta - four medalists. After Australia crossed the line in first, followed by a Finnish crew that had led the second half of the race save for the last 250 meters, the German and Danish crews reached the line at the same instant, and a dead heat for third was declared. See the photo finish for yourself here.
And if there weren't enough flags up on the podium already, the Danish crew tied two flags together and wore them up onto the stand - one was the Danish national flag, the other the flag of the Danish territory the Faroe Islands, home to bowseat Katrin Olsen. After crossing 500 to go in sixth place, Olsen was happy to join the Germans in the medals: "We always have a very good sprint, and it is a great honor to share the medal with the Germans on their home course." As for the athlete party, Olsen has plans, if uncertain ones: "We owe the Germans a beer - or maybe they owe us one!"
Almost as surprising as the quadruple medal count was the complete absence of the Chinese from the medal stand; they were the defending World Champs, and at the World Cup this year, they placed two crews 1-2 against some of this same competition. After a reasonable start, the Chinese wheels came off in the second thousand, and the crew placed sixth.
Non-Olympic A Finals
The US men's coxed four started off the day with a thrilling win in the "final-only" event; see our post-race interview with three-seat Sam Burns at row2k video: Dan Beery drops a bomb. The crew kept a very low profile all week, and was rarely seen in practice even by the row2k staff, who were the first to arrive in the media center every day this week (thanks to the breakfast staff who unlocked the doors every day). Coach Greg Hughes explained that the crew rowed very early and very late each day in hopes of getting the best water: "If you're going out to take short rows between races, it's okay to be out there with a lot of other crews," he said. "But when you are here for two weeks before your race and you have to get stuff done, we wanted to get a bit better water, so we had two trips done every morning before anyone else even showed up."
After the finish United States coxswain Ned Del Guercio described having to turn his cox box up towards the end of the race as the crowd was so loud.
The winning Italian light men's quad included some bright lights of Italian rowing, including Leonardo Pettinari in the bow seat; no surprise that they barreled through the field late. Pettinari has apparently been exposed to plenty of English - he stood up and yelled "YEAH!" after crossing the line.
The US light women's quad included three first-time national teamers, so while the wooden medal of fourth place may be a disappointment, it's not a terrible result for them. They made a bid for the medals in the second 500, but could not sustain it, and had to settle for fourth behind Australia, Great Britain and China, one and a half seconds ahead.
A highlight of the light men's pair was the acrobatics of the German pair, which includes the twins Jochen and Martin Kuehner; stroke Martin stood up in the boat, turned around and hugged his brother, then head-butted him. Although the machine gun stunt of the Danish stroke was a pretty good way to celebrate, I don't think anything tops head-butting your twin brother. I'm pretty sure both of these are on our row2k video: Sunday winners reel.
One notable and positive development: there are very few silver and bronze medal crews stewing after the finish line and on the medals podium that they didn't place higher. A silver medalist was as likely as a bronze medalist who was (almost) as likely to stand up in the boat, wave oars, and climb the gunwales as were gold medalists. It's great to see; stonefaced or scowling medalists were few and far between; rather, most made it the celebration it ought to be.
And on the topic of great attitudes, the sold-out German audience was generous with applause, cheering, clapping, singing, you name it. They gave ovations to German medalists of every color, and many athletes commented that it was the loudest crowd they had ever heard. Peter Billings wrote row2k to confirm it: "Great reporting on the worlds. You might want to explain to people who have not been there what the athletes mean about support from the stands. It's the only venue where I've actually noticed the noise, and thirty-five years ago it was the same sustained applause for great racing."
And when we say sold out, we mean it - 65,000 people attended the regatta this week, including 15,000 on this pleasant and sunny last day of the regatta today; at 30 euros/person, that is an enthusiastic and large number.
The FISA girls were busily collecting quotes from the medalists after the race, for which the journos were grateful; most concluded their interviews with "have a great time at the party!" - hence the frequent references to beer in some interviews. Hey, what do you expect - Worlds are over and it's Germany!
Marek Kolbowicz, POL: "We had a good race, it feels special to win another gold for Poland. Now the next step is the Olympic Games."
Julien Bahain, FRA: "It was a very strong and competitive race. I did not look left or right. On the last 200 meters, I closed my eyes and kept the rhythm to the finish successfully. I am very happy."
Cedric Berrest: "We made a difference in the third 500 and that's 75% of the race."
Rene Bertram, GER: "This race and the bronze medal was a great finish of this regatta. For next year we'll have to wait and see. Everything will be mixed up again I think."
Katherine Grainger, GBR: "There was a lot of emotion in this race, and this is fantastic result."
Britta Oppelt, GER: "This was our best race at this regatta, it just wasn't quite enough.:
Kathrin Boron: "We always want to win gold, but since this was our best race in Munich, this result is okay."
Aihua Xi, China: "We are not totally satisfied with the result."
Men's coxed four (M4+)
Matt Deakin (USA) - Gold medallists: "You always hope for gold. We were up against other good crews, we didn't know what to expect, so we are very pleased with the result."
Nikola Stojic (SRB) - Silver medallists: "This was our second race together in this line up. I am not totally happy about the second place, but we are satisfied."(Nicola Stojic)
Stephan Koltzk (GER) - Bronze medallists: "We fought very hard, I've rarely had such a hard race before. Today we couldn't do anymore, so we are happy with the third place."
Lightweight men's pair (LM2-)
Andrea Caianiello (ITA): "This was a very difficult race, the Australians almost made us die. Then there were still the Germans. On the last 500 we just gave everything. We are very happy as this is our second winning after the U23 this year." (Andrea Caianiello)
Jochen Kuehner, Martin Kuehner (GER) - Silver medallists: "It's just the best we ever experienced, the crowd on the grandstand is amazing, they help you so much on the last 200 metres. We are so overwhelmed, we don't even feel how hard the race actually was." (GER team)
Michael McBryde (AUS) - Bronze medallists: "Our plan was to race hard from the start and try to win. It didn't quite work out, and we paid heavily in the last 200 metres. We were pleased to hold on for a medal. The course is beautiful to race on, we cannot complain."
Lightweight women's quadruple sculls (LW4x)
Laura Greenhalgh (GBR) - Silver medallists: "We've always had a strong move at 1250. We had to go to really make a difference."
"When Sophie called out at the end, I knew we just had to bloody go. I knew our rhythm was carrying us. We tried to attack the Aussies, it was a good race, and this is my first medal since 1999. This boat is a great combination of youth and experience. I'm the grandma." (Jane Hall)
Shimin Yan (CHN) - Bronze medallists: "We went for gold, unfortunately failed, and maybe should have trained harder."
Lightweight men's quadruple sculls (LM4x)
Leonardo Pettinari (ITA) - Gold medallists: "This was a great race. It went really well. This victory is a confirmation of our hard work together. Finally something to celebrate. "
Remi Di Girolamo (FRA) - Silver medallists: "We are very happy about the second place. It was a hard race with strong competitors."
Robert Williams (GBR) - Bronze medallists: "We were confident we could at least get the bronze as we've beaten the Germans before, but it was a matter of keeping hold of the French and Italians. We knew everyone would go off hard and we stuck to our race plan. We nearly got the French and it's good to push the Italians hard. Racing at Worlds level is a lot more intense than racing at non-worlds."
Lightweight women's double sculls (LW2x)
Amber Halliday (AUS) - Gold medallists: "Great. We didn't know we had won when we crossed the finish line, only when we saw it on the board. It was brilliant."
Sanna Sten (FIN) - Silver medallists: "It was a very tough race, and we are so happy about the silver medal. It is a great moment for us."
Berit Carow (GER) - Bronze medallists: "I am very happy about the decision about the two bronze medals. We had a good race, we had a very strong start, and we knew we had to go for gold right from the beginning, so at the end you have a medal at least."
Katrin Olsen (DEN) - Bronze medallists: "We had our traditional slow start, but obviously a great finish. We were going for Gold, but sharing the bronze with the Germans who rowed on their home course is great also."
Lightweight men's double sculls (LM2x)
Rasmus Quist (DEN) - Gold medalist: "It was pretty damn hard, very tiring almost all the way. After seeing the Australians in the semi-final, we expected to be second after them around 1000, but we had a little advantage and even the Greek came faster. We had a sprint at the end, where we were pushed by the crowd on both banks."
Dimitrios Mougios (GRE) - Silver medallist: "It was a tough race. We had a really good start and kept a good position to the Danish. But our happiness is half because of what happened in Greece. After the bad fires there are still people missing that?s why we are wearing the black ribbon."
Mark Hunter (GBR) - Bronze medallist: "This was the best complete race we ever had. The last 300m we just caught on and finished the job. It was great. This medal feels really good. " (Mark Hunter)
Lightweight men's four (LM4-)
Paul Mattick (GBR) - Gold medallist: "We had a very good second part of the race, but also the first 1000 metres went quite well, and I can't believe we won."
"This is a very emotional moment for me, and it's brilliant." (Robin Williams - Coach)
Jean-Christophe Bette (FRA) - Silver medallist: "Our strategy was to start quick, to keep the speed. On the last 200 metres we recognised that the Italian team became tired, so we took our chance and increased our stroke rate, and fortunately made silver. "
Bruno Mascharenhas (ITA) - Bronze medallist: "Us Italians are never content with just a medal, we always want to win. But it still is great to win this bronze. The Olympic preparation for next year we will do on our last ten strokes."
And so ends row2k's Utterly Comprehensive Coverage of the 2007 World Championships and Olympic qualifier! This was an astounding amount of work, so if you followed along with us, we need you to participate in making the coverage possible - we're hoping to get to a break-even on the coverage. SUPPORT ROW2K!