The racing here on Lake Karapiro just keeps getting better and the margins keep getting tighter, whew. Finishing up the morning, the reps in the Men's 8+ provided the fireworks; in the first rep, the Canadian M8+ blasted out of the blocks, putting the pace to the NZ and US eights in the adjoining lanes. Canada lead to the 1500m mark, then wilted badly, leaving the US and the NZ eight (who proved today that their heat race was no fluke) to fight it down to the line, with the US taking the win by just over half a second.
This is somewhat of a return to form for the US Men after a disappointing 2009 in the eight. Athletes and coaches were appropriately elated with the result, and US coach Kris Korzeniowski spoke glowingly of the crew.
"That was an incredible race, a textbook race," said Korzeniowski. "Classical in the sense that, someone went a little too fast, you stick, you control your pace, you are courageous, you don't quit, and when you have a good moment, you attack. Regardless of how you prepare your tactics, in the race there are many different factors and the guys did an excellent job. We were supposed to go with Canada, but they threw a ferocious attack, so we waited a little bit, stayed persistent. It's incredible how these boys raced today."
Korzeniowski also pointed to the strength of the team as critical for the strength of the boat. "You select guys who want to row this boat, who want to be together, who want to have fun," he said. "We had good workouts, everything we have done was positive, that's why I was anxious to finish on a good note. It's a relief and an excitement to be in the final. You can not think about medals if you are not in the final. For Sunday, it's open!"
See also our video interview with Jason Read and Ned del Guercio for further insight into the state of the US crew.
The 2nd rep was as exciting, but almost absurdly close, as all four crews in the race finished within a length of the winning Australian 8+, and the Dutch claimed the final spot in the final by 3/100s of a second over the Chinese eight. This was a come-from-behind race for the Dutch, who looked well out of it until they exploded in the 3rd 500 and overhauled the Chinese. We're still checking on the times, as the official sheet might have a misprint; it lists the Dutch following up a 1:30 2nd 500 with a 1:19 3rd 500.
(A few journalists here have remarked that these late/hairy sprints seem to be a Dutch "thing"; "It's like they goof around for 1000 meters before they decide to get serious and try to win the thing," said one wag.)
Both Chinese eights have been a little bit of a surprise here; the Chinese women's eight is headed to the final after finishing 2nd behind the Dutch in the rep of the W8+.
Beyond the Eights, the US had a less successful day, as the Men's Pair, Men's Single, Women's Single and Lightweight Men's Fours all missed out on the A-Finals in their Semifinals.
In the Men's Pair, there was a lot of buzz surrounding the "premature" meeting of the two best pairs at the regatta, the GB and NZ crews, in the semifinals. These two crews have been going at it for two years now, with the Kiwi pair having the clear upper hand. Today's semi was the same story, with NZ claiming the win over GB; these two crews were miles ahead of the field by midrace, with the GB seemingly content to let this private duel go the Kiwis. (Also see our video interview of both crews).
A few observers wondered how the two fastest crews in an event could be drawn into the same semi. The answer, from FISA's Matt Smith, was straightforward: "We divide the crews randomly so that there is no heat that is really easy and another heat is really hard. There is no attempt to work out their placement to achieve a certain semifinal. A random action like that could lead to having two leading crews in the same semifinal. They both have to qualify for the final, and that's absolutely fine for us."
Both of these crews are seemingly used to the media attention by now; as the NZ crew walked back down the hill after their cooldown, bow seat Eric Murray (who, by the way, is sporting the best mustache of the regatta, bar none) broke into a smile. "Ah yes, the media scrum!" he said as they dove right in.
Although the results seem to indicate normal service, the Men's Single semis weren't without their drama today; in Mahe Drysdale's semi, several scullers received "yellow cards" (warnings, like a false start) from FISA because they arrived to the start without the required sponsor stickers on their boats (the video feed today actually showed Drysdale arguing his yellow card, almost like a soccer player on the field). There was a slight delay as officials applied the stickers, and then, on the actual start, Drysdale stopped 10 strokes in because the newly-affixed sticker started getting detached and dragging in the water. The crews paddled back, battened down the stickers, and started cleanly the second time around, but you have to hand it to Drysdale; fairly nervy to stop a worlds semi on account of a sticker!
The first medals of the regatta were awarded today, as the five Adaptive Rowing finals were run after the conclusion of the morning reps & semis. The tickets to the regatta here are sold as day passes, so you'd expect that these Adaptive finals were well attended; it was well worth it today, as these finals had some incredible racing. Fully 3 of the 5 medal finals featured split-second margins between medal-winning crews, which can't but be good for the sport.
At the FISA press conference earlier today, officials also sought to allay concerns about the weather; the powers that be are watching carefully, and it appears that the severe weather thought to be incoming may yet hold off; in any event, we're scheduled to be on schedule for the first day of A-Finals tomorrow.
Classic interaction at the media center today, between an official from FISA and a federation rep:
FISA rep (on phone): "Yes, hello, this is So-and-so from FISA, we're ready to have the interview. Where are you sitting?"
Federation rep (one row back): "Right behind you."
The oars in use by US crews have looked extra sharp here this week; we're told that, not only did Croker custom paint the oars they delivered to several US crews here, but also spent "about an hour" online researching the exact US Gov't specifications for the "official" shade of red. "These may be the first USA blades in history to be painted the right color," quipped one team member.
First Senior medals on tap for tomorrow!
QUICK QUOTES (Finals A)
ASW 1x / Race 105
Nathalie Benoit (FRA) – Gold
"I'm very tired, but very, very, very happy. I was not sure I could win before the race, because I knew that the Brasilian would be a strong opponent. The atmosphere here was fantastic. The crowd was amazing and helped us in the last 250 last meters. It was important because the struggle with Claudia Santos was not over.
“Before rowing I was a basket ball player and I began to row just two years ago in Marseille. I'm sure I'll come back to New Zealand. It's a fantastic country with such nice people."
Claudia Santos (BRA) – Silver
Jose Lima (BRA) – coach of Claudia Santos - Silver
"I’m very happy with the result here. Claudia was very successful in Bled this year and successful here again and I think all the work is going in the right direction.”
ASM 1x / Race 106
Tom Aggar (GBR) – Gold
“This is my third World Championship gold. I was very confident going into the race, but everybody else obviously was as well. This is the best World Championship I have ever been to. ”
Andrii Kryvchun (UKR) – Silver
"I’m very, very satisfied with this race. Everything went well, only a few moments of doubt. But I only realised that I actually won silver when I saw the names and countries come up on the board."
Daniel McBride (NZL) – Bronze
“There wasn’t too much left in the tank, but it’s a great feeling.”
TAMix2x / Race 107
Iryna Kyrychenko (UKR) – Gold
“After the race Dmytro [Ivanov] felt very, very bad. It was a very difficult race with a head wind. New Zealand is very, very nice and I will be back!”
Stephane Tardieu / Perle Bouge (FRA) – Silver
"We're happy. We had a bad start, maybe because we had too much pressure. But then we did our best to finish at second place. We didn’t know during the race what our position was. We understood that we were medallist just when we saw our names on the scoreboard. It's not the best medal, but we hope to win it next year.
“It's a big success for us. We began to train together just four months ago, Perle trained every day in Bayonne and I in Boulogne Billancourt near Paris. We met to train together just two or three days a month. To obtain this result in those conditions is a good thing for the next Paralympic Games."
Kathryn Ross (AUS) – Bronze
“It was very uncertain where we finished until we saw it on the board. I only saw three boats out of the corner of my eyes. That’s what you call racing. We were way back, but managed to put our foot down. In six months we’ll be on.“
Grant Bailey (AUS) – Bronze
“This is my first World Championship medal, my first rowing medal ever in fact. I’ve only been rowing for eight months. It feels really good and will feel even better when I feel the medal around my neck.”
IDMix4+ / Race 108
Yuen Wah Lee (HKG) – Gold
“I’m very happy and I’m very proud of them. We tried our best and we got gold. We were nervous at the start, but we enjoyed our race and we did our best. We have been preparing for one year and I’m very happy!”
Andrea Lenzi (ITA) – Silver
"We had a good race. We knew that Hong Kong would be strong so we tried to have a strong start and keep up with them. The guys were great and were very concentrated. I’m very proud of my team.”
Irina Kostyukhina (RUS) – Bronze
“We are very happy with the race.”
LTAMix4+ / Race 109
David Blair (CAN) - Gold
"My teammates began to row together four years ago, and I am the last one, arriving just this year. We row together the whole summer, working hard. We came here to win, we knew that it was possible, but it remains incredible. The race was very hard. Because it's a short distance, there is high intensity during 1000 meters, so high that I was out of strength after the arrival."
James Roe (GBR) – Silver
"We had a good row. It’s a good reflection of where the crew itself is at now. It was a tough row though. We’ve been together since September and hopefully we’ll stay on as a crew until the World Champs next year and then on to London 2012. ”
Anke Molkenthin (GER) – Bronze
“Honestly, I can’t remember that much. I know we did everything we were supposed to, but the rest is a bit of a blur. We thought that everything between place one and four would be possible. And all boats are aiming for the same, everybody is trying to do their best. The level in the LTAMix4+ is very high, so we are very happy about the medal. ”
2010 World Championships: US Men's Eight, Unplugged
row2k talks to coxswain Ned del Guercio and 7-seat Jason Read of the US Men's 8+ after the crew won their rep to qualify for the A-Final at the 2010 World Rowing Championships on Lake Karapiro, NZ. (www.row2k.com)