A strong Silver medal from the USA LW2x...
The Olympic class finals are on in Chungju. It's the shortest day of racing so far, but definitely the busiest day at the course; not only are there local folks coming out, but the athletes who are done racing are filling the grandstand to watch their teammates race. Having athletes and coaches in the stands makes the crowd a bit more dynamic as there are more dedicated allegiances in this crowd than there was earlier in the week.
After a slow start in the LW2x, the undefeated Italian crew led the field ahead of Germany and the USA's Kristin Hedstrom and Kate Bertko. By the halfway mark, the USA and Germany were battling with Italy remaining ahead. The American crew made a push past the Germans who attempted to charge into second, and with an aggressive sprint the USA took silver; they were elated.
"I knew it was going to be close; it's just the nature of lightweight women's racing, " said Hedstrom. "Ever since Lucerne [where they finished second], we knew that being internal was a strength of ours. We got to the middle of the race and I'm calling that we're in third for a long time; it's just about knowing your strength and trusting that you'll have it in the tank later to unleash."
Racing in a double is all about trusting your partner, and it was apparent that Hedstrom and Bertko truly relied on one another, "Kristin really helped me overcome a lot of things this year,” said Bertko, "I wouldn’t race with anyone else; this is just the best."
The USA men's four, working off momentum from their win in Lucerne, put out two strong races in their heat and semifinal on the way to today's race. The field was full of very powerful crews; it was clear from the semifinal that none of the boats would enter the last 500 with anything less than a punishing sprint. As the crews came off the line, the American men were out of the pack, but had steadily pushed their way into second place by the thousand. As the crews entered the second half of the race, the four leaders—Italy, the USA, Australia and the Netherlands—were all within a second of one another; this race was anyone's game. With an incredible sprint, in front of a booming grandstand, the Dutch stormed into first, and the Australians nabbed the second spot, leaving the World Cup champs in third. The sprint was so exciting that two Dutch athletes ran down the dock, flung themselves into the lake and swam out to congratulate their teammates.
It was a disappointing finish for the strong US crew of Grant James, Seth Weil, Henrik Rummel, and Michael Gennaro, but there was no doubt that their competitors had put out anything less than their best race; the American boys were left hungry for more.
"I had to believe that was the best rowing anyone's ever had," said James. "It wasn't the result we wanted, but the tactics that have been working for us, just didn't work today."
"I'm honored to have the chance to represent my country, to race with these guys and get a bronze," said Gennaro, "but it’s not what we want to do so we're going to keep working and bump up a couple places next year."
The women's quad of Kara Kohler, Susan Francia, Esther Lofgren, and Megan Kalmoe had a solid race, but finished fifth, unable able keep up with the leading crews—Germany, Canada and Poland. There was no question that this field of quads was incredibly fast with a tough progression including a photo finish in the repechage.
In another tough race, Polly Swann and Helen Glover, winners of all three 2013 World Cup races, lined up against USA's Meghan Musnicki and Taylor Goetzinger. Musnicki and Goetzinger had a roaring fast start, and matched the GB pair stroke for stroke; the two were trailing the UK women by only two second at the thousand. The Romanians and New Zealanders who had fell back early began to reel in and pass the US crew, leaving them to settle for fourth at the line. It’s a tough result for newcomer Goetzinger; Musnicki will line up again tomorrow for the final of the W8+.
Despite the absence of US crews in a few finals, there was some spectacular and noteworthy racing. The famed "Kiwi Pair" of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond claimed their sixteenth consecutive international win since 2009 when they won by 7 seconds. The GB M4x, had a lot to celebrate when they took the bronze—it was the first ever M4x medal for the UK.
In the LM2x B final, Austin Meyer and Nick Trojan had a quick start and were the clear leaders by 500 down, though they weren’t able to hold on to the lead—by 1000m they were in fourth as the Austrian, Polish and Dutch crew wound up for the second half of the race. The two tried to sprint to get back into medals territory, but were totally spent and finished sixth. The two have only been able to row together a few weeks each summer for the past two years; we will be keeping our eyes on them as they begin to train together more consistently.
The venue is becoming more and more festive; the Australian athletes joined in "The Rowing Dance" this morning, entertaining the crowd as they waited for the first race to begin. As the regatta wraps up, everyone is trying to maximize their time; many of the US athletes who medaled yesterday took the morning to go into Chungju and visit the markets; the lightweights gone wild were especially excited to try some of the local fare.
It's also day seven of flat conditions; not conditions that will destroy records, but ones that lead to fair racing. Despite the rainstorm, which was brilliantly predicted to the minute, the athletes and coaches alike seem to really be enjoying this lake.
As the week has progressed the racing has become more impressive and today was no different; these were not simply Olympic class boats racing, but Olympic level athletes putting everything down on the line. We're expecting nothing less tomorrow—the last day of racing at the 2013 World Championships.
Finally, here are today's athlete quotes, from FISA.
Helen Glover (W2-) – GBR – Gold
"We were in a commanding position from stroke one, USA put us under pressure for first 500m and made us a bit worried, but we stayed focused and continued on. At 1000m we looked at Romanians and we knew we had it under control. We just couldn’t believe how good it felt for the second thousand. Crossing the finish line we were overjoyed that we did it."
Nicoleta Albu (W2-) – ROU – Silver
"We were expecting a medal, but it’s a new crew. We’ve only been together for one month, so this is the beginning. Our aim is the gold, maybe next year, maybe in Rio. We are very happy because you have to start somewhere."
Eric Murray and Hamish Bond (M2-) – NZL – Gold
"This is our 5th World Championship gold medal and each one is special in its own way. We are pleased to be back on course after the Olympic Games. We pride ourselves for being consistent. We respect all the other pairs and we have set benchmarks, everyone is expecting us to win, but we can say that we feel that the field is getting faster, so we have to stay on top of our game. We put a lot of work into this season and now we are relieved that it’s over. We always try to go as fast as possible and not to become complacent. It is very hard to do that and we think that sometimes people don’t understand how hard it is to be on top at every race. Even if we sometimes don’t perform at our best, we are still able to win."
Germain Chardain (M2-) – FRA – Silver
"We are very happy with the result. It was the best result of the season. The Kiwi pair are two exceptional rowers and they work really hard in New Zealand. Our aim is to get as close (to them) as possible."
Rogier Blink (M2-) – NED – Bronze
"We didn’t expect this at all this morning. During the race we were able to stay in contact with the Italians. At the 1250m mark we made a move, but no one else did. We are absolutely delighted"
Kristoffer Brun (LM2x) – NOR – Gold
"This was unbelievable race for us. We stayed cool during the middle part of the race and pushed hard during the last 750m. The last 20 strokes were unbelievably hard. Before this final race we said, ‘we’ll give them hell’ and we delivered. It’s an insane and unbelievable feeling to be World Champions."
Simon Schuerch (LM2x) – SUI – Silver
"Before the race we were expected to fight with Great Britain, Italy and Norway. After the semifinal we thought gold could be possible, but we are very happy with the result. The regatta is really sensational, the course is fantastic and the organisation is much better than we expected."
Peter Chambers (LM2x) – GBR – Bronze
"We couldn’t do anything else. It’s the worst I’ve felt after a race ever. We left everything out there."
Laura Milani (LW2x) – ITA – Gold
"We still haven’t realised that we are the World Champions. That was our dream and now it’s for real. It was a very hard race because of the head wind, but we had confidence in our abilities in all weather conditions. We stayed focused the whole way but we worried a little bit that something could happen in the last few hundred metres."
Kristen Hedstrom (LW2x) – USA – Silver
"The goal was to be internal. We really worked on that after Lucerne. In the lightweight women’s double you know it’s going to be close. We didn’t know what would happen, but it’s about trusting your strength. That’s all we did and we’re really happy."
Anje Noske (LW2x) – GER – Bronze
"When we crossed the line, the only thing I felt was that everything hurt but now I’m realising that we got the bronze medal. This bronze at the World Champions means more to me than silver at Europeans. The secret to our success is that we are a strong team who go through highs and lows together. It’s so fun to row with Lena."
Kaj Hendricks (M4-) – NED – Gold
"The middle part of the race is our weak point. Our mission was to stay close in the middle. We used to start our sprint late, but our aim was to empty the tank before the finish line. It was hard for me to keep my eyes in the boat because I was waiting for the bowman to call our position, but when he said we were in first it was only legs after that."
Joshua Dunkley-Smith (M4-) – AUS – Silver
"We were expecting a close finish, and expecting the USA and Italy to be fast, but not the Dutch, even though they were fast in the semifinal. We didn’t know what to expect from Chungju except heat and humidity. It took us a while to adjust to the weather, but after the semis we were back up on top of things."
Seth Weil (M4-) – USA – Bronze
"We expected to be competitive and race for the medals today. We are a pretty new crews so I didn’t assume anything before the race. We knew we had speed, but today we didn’t quite execute what we planned. It seemed like we didn’t have the next gear in the last quarter of the race. Still it was a great race and all this year was good for us. We are looking forward to racing Dutch and Australians in the coming years."
Britta Opelt (W4x) – GER – Gold
"I am speechless! It’s really an amazing feeling. Racing was a lot of fun. We were very happy to be able to apply our training in the race."
Antje Von Seydlitz-Kurzbach (W4x) – CAN – Silver
"I think it’s a long time since the Canadians had a female crew in the A-final. I’m super excited to be part of it. We raced like we do in training and it worked. We gave it our all and I’m really happy with the result."
Magdalena Fularczyk (W4x) – POL – Bronze
"We have only been rowing together a few months in the quad, so we are very happy with the result. The organisation of the regatta was really good, but 8 days is a long competition. The venue and region is really beautiful."
David Sain (M4x) – CRO – Gold
"This was a fantastic race. Everything unfolded according to plan. This was maybe the best race of our lives. We really drained all our reserves, but saved enough energy to hold the challengers in the last 200m. We planned to get ahead of the rest, but not at any cost. We took a commanding lead at 500m and it was easier for us after that. We are really satisfied with the conditions here in Korea. Today’s weather conditions were better than the rest of the week. We had a head wind, which has always suited us fine, although we are prepared for all weather conditions."
Tim Grohmann (M4x) – GER – Silver
"Of course our aim was gold, but I think we had a 50/50 chance. It’s usually like this with the Croatians. The Croatians got off better at the start, basically what we did in London last year. In general, we are happy with the result. It was really nice to row in Korea, but we struggled with heat, humidity and jet lag. By the semifinal we were fit and prepared to give our best effort. The course is great and very fair and the surroundings are beautiful."
Peter Lambert (M4x) – GBR – Bronze
"We were very controlled for the first 1000m. We knew the other guys were ahead of us, but we knew we had a strong second thousand. We backed ourselves to do well in last thousand. I’m really happy for the guy behind me. It’s good that the Ukrainians came at us because I didn’t realise the Germans were that close. It’s a historic medal, first ever for a GB quad, so we’re very happy with the result."