Definitely kinder conditions today, overcast with a slight tailwind; after two days of fairly stiff headwinds, folks had to be grateful for a somewhat quicker racetrack.
Even in a post-Olympic year, the Lightweight events at Worlds are an absolute sharkpit. The US LM4- of Will Daly, Brian de Regt, Nick LaCava, and Taylor Washburn are internationally under-experienced, and their draw for the rep today included such pedigreed crews as Great Britain, the defending world champs from '07 (on paper, at least...the crew has only one member of that crew remaining in the boat), and France, with only two crews to advance.
In one of the more stunning races on the day, the US crew ran behind early, then kicked into gear and chased the French all the way to the finish line, snapping up a spot in the semis and just knocking the Brits out.
"They've been training well, and they've performed well in practice, so we just told them to go out and have a regular race," said US lightweight coach John Parker. "I think they just rowed a little bit more confidently knowing that."
Confidence doesn't seem to be an issue with this crew, at all. "Once we saw the draw, we were really excited to be able to show what we had, we really believed that. In general, people don't know how much these guys have improved over the years, and we just wanted to have the opportunity to show that."
A spot in the semi sown up, the crew exchanged a few well-deserved fistbumps as they drifted past the finish line.
It was a good day in general for the US lightweights, as the Light Women's Double and the Light Men's Quad also advanced out of the reps today. The LW2x, despite having what one coach described as "a little bit of a flat race," qualified for Friday's Semis handily behind the Dutch crew, while the LM4x moved on to Sunday's final by virtue of a 3rd place finish in their rep. "Good row," was bowseat Brian Tryon's assesment.
The US Men's Quad was handed a bit of a game-changer in their rep, as apparently the news of the withdrawal of the GB M4x from the competition never made it to the crew or their coaches; originally, the rep was to have been five crews, with three to advance, but the absence of the GB, and the fact that the crew on the low end of the totem pole, Iran, was not really expected to be competitive, meant that the three other crews, the US, Australia and Estonia, essentially had their advancement to the Semi sown up. The challenge then became make the piece useful, which the US seemed to do, finishing a close second to Australia enroute to Friday's semi.
Well, the US M8+ definitely fixed their first 500 today, blowing out of the gates in 1:19 and change and leading their rep to the 1000, but simply lacked the experience to counter a more seasoned Italian crew that pushed hard through the middle of the race and a Polish crew in Lane 1 that took incredible advantage of their "home game" today, essentially sprinting the last 1000 to win the rep, ahead of the Italians, leaving the US one spot out of the A-Final in a single six-boat rep for all the marbles.
It's probably telling that the US was five seconds off the pace again today, as they'd been in the heat, even if the way they got there was the direct reverse of the previous race.
"I think it's obvious what we were trying to do," said US Men's head coach Tim McLaren afterwards. "We were out for some self-respect, I suppose. It's hard to have every piece of the puzzle for a crew where a lot of the guys are at their first World championships."
It's really tempting to gloss over this stat, given the youth of the crew and the aggressive race they rowed today, but given the status of the event in the pantheon of United States rowing, it's bound to come up sooner or later; it's been 18 years, since 1991, that the US last did not row for the medals in the M8+ at the Worlds or Olympics. That's a tough streak to break, but, as we all know, all streaks come to an end at some point.
"You rehearse, you practice, but at the end of the day you have to come off the water and say, 'Well, I did all I could do.' I think we did that today," said McLaren. "The learning curve here is steep."
US Light Men's small boats came up just short in their racing today; the USA LM2x of Shane Madden and Andy Quinn finished a close 3rd in their rep, and will row in the C-Final later this week. The USA LM2- of John Wainright and Alex Rothmeier also found the limits of their event in a tough way today, finishing 5th in their rep; they will row the B-Final on Saturday.
Cody Lowry in the US LM1x was in action in the C/D semifinal, where he placed third for a spot in the C-Final later this week.
It's Wednesday, and the USA LW4x finally got in their first licks today in the "Race for Lanes," the last US crew to take to the water for racing this week. Though the crew finished 5th today, the field looked fairly tight, and with 3 Nat'l team rookies aboard, the result is definitely promising for Saturday's final.
With all the heats and reps completed, the focus is on semis, and medals.
It might just be a coincidence of overlapping practice times, but the Romanian and US Women's Pairs and Eights have been shadowing each other during their practice rows these past few days, almost like tigers pacing a cage. There is a lot of history between these two teams, for sure.
USA M2+ cox Marcus McIlhenny took somewhat of a circuitous route getting to Poland; as the rest of the team headed for Poland a week and a half ago, Marcus packed a UHaul and drove it to California from Princeton. He then hopped a flight, making it to Poznan in time for the heat. The crew, Troy Kepper and Henrik Rummel, had been practicing in a straight pair in Marcus' absence, and after the crew won their heat on Sunday, they kept up the routine of swapping between the straight and the coxed boat, with Marcus coaching them from the bike path.
The "spiderweb" style athletic tape that first got attention through US Beach Volleyballer Kerrie Walsh's use of it at the Beijing Olympics is also showing up big time here in Poznan; just about every crew has an athlete sporting the tape somewhere. Its' official title is Kinesiotex tape, and, according to USRowing medical support person and former US team rower Dr. Kate Ackerman, the tape "basically just helps to hold stuff together."
A slough of medical withdrawals this morning, as illness seems to be taking a few folks down; the GB M4x, the Iranian LM2x and Estonian Jueri Jaanson in the M1x, whom we mentioned yesterday, have all withdrawn from the racing.
The World Championships in 2013 are going to be held in Chong Ju, South Korea, and these folks are promoting their event pretty heavily here in Poland; all the Korean journos and photographers are wearing the official event gear, there are posters and a tent set up on the premises, etc. It might seem like overkill to promote an event four years out so heavily, but with the regatta being held in Asia, in a post-Olympic year to boot, it could be a potentially tougher sell, and the organizers are clearly taking the "high visibility" route.
Radiohead was in town last night, with a big open-air concert at the old castle in the center of town. With the windows in our hotel room open, it was like the band was in your room...not so bad for us press types, but I feel bad for anyone from our hotel who had a rep today.
The media dinner was last night, held right down here in the VIP area at the racecourse. Replete with a big sign advertising "Potatoland," correspondents and media types were feted with a fully Polish dinner of potatoes, cabbage, and boiled pigs feet. I wish I could report that I was brave enough to give this one a try, but no.
Finally, US W1x coach Matt Madigan was rocking the boatyard in his row2k supporters shirt earlier this week, lookin' good...