USA W8+ cox Katelin Snyder heads into the drink...
The last day of finals is bittersweet; there is still an anxious anticipation in the air for the last events, and yet many rowers are ready to get home and do more work; this world-class event stirs up the true competitor and leaves them hungry for more.
For some rowers, Worlds has become an annual pilgrimage to track progress, for new racers this week has been the first stop on their rowing journey, and for some other competitors, this may mark the end of their rowing careers; a last hurrah, a final chance.
As everyone sat on the line for the W8+ final, there was no question: the USA was the crew to beat. With seven consecutive World Championships and two Olympic golds from 2008 and 2012, the US women have established themselves as the very best. This year's crew of Katelin Snyder, Caroline Lind, Vicky Opitz, Meghan Musnicki, Grace Luczak, Lauren Schmetterling, Emily Regan, Kerry Simmonds and Amanda Polk had only three returning oarswomen to the 8+, Lind, Musnicki and Polk (Snyder also coxed the crew in 2009, while Mary Whipple was taking a year off).
As they came off the line, they edged out of the pack, but the Romanian crew desperately tried to hold them and "ruffle their feathers" as the commentator mentioned. By the 500-meter mark the USA was already leading by four seats, and as the race progressed they continued to move away from the field. The battle for silver going on behind them was between Canada and Romania, with Romania coming out on top followed by the Canadian women.
"It was such a hard race, our competitors went off really hard, we went with them for the first bit then tried to push away," said Schmetterling.
"From start to finish we listened to Katelin, we stayed internal" added Polk. "The field was fierce; we didn’t stop making moves or pushing until we were across the line."
It was an especially exciting win for this very young and new crew. It's a difficult task to train in the shadow of such success, but these women put their heads down and did work; this crew has not simply continued the successes of their predecessors, but established themselves as a new powerhouse lineup.
Schmetterling, one of the new women in the boat was new to the Princeton Training Center less than a year ago. "This is absolutely incredible. This is my first World Championships, Lucerne was my first international race—it's been a crazy season for me!"
"The best part of racing is seeing what we can do,” said Snyder. "In order to be satisfied with the result we need to go as hard as we can the whole way."
All eyes were on the course for the last race of regatta: the men's 8+. The USA's win in Lucerne just a few weeks ago--breaking the German's four-year undefeated streak—threw the predictions for a loop; this was going to be a tough race. The British crew, comprised of many Olympic gold medalists, had a fantastic start taking the lead early and maintaining it for the race, forcing the rest of the field, including the Germans to chase them down the course. The American crew of Zach Vlahos, Thomas Peszek, Thomas Dethlefs, Steven Kasprzyk, Austin Hack, Ambrose Puttmann, Nareg Guregian, Ross James and Ian Silveira had a solid start and followed their race plan as they moved swiftly into third place—and moving. The GB boat took the gold, followed closely by the Germans and US crews.
"We spent a lot of time visualizing exactly how we wanted this race to be executed and we did it exactly as we wanted to," said Peszek. "Our start was one of the best we had; we got out of the blocks clean, strong we got into a rhythm, it's just that the British and Germans had more in them."
Silveria, sitting in bow seat for his first World Championship was the first American over the finish line. "It's just so exciting racing at this level of rowing," he said. "After a race like that we're really happy but certainly not satisfied, I'm excited to give it another shot to try and beat them."
And what was the view like from the bow? "Well to be honest, we decided not to look out of the boat at all…but with 100 meters to go I took a look around and realized we were going to do it—it was one of the greatest feelings in racing I've had so far."
In their first A final in 13 years, the USA LM4- of Robin Prendes, Anthony Fahden, Robert Duff and Will Daly faced an incredible field of competitors including the 2012 Olympic champs, South Africa and the historically fast Danish crew. This event tends to have very small finishing margins, and going into the race it really was tough to predict who would come out on top. The commentator best described it as "fast and furious" as the Danish crew came off the line at 51 strokes per minute, establishing their lead early on in the race. After a big move past France, the GB team took bronze behind New Zealand, who in second place had their best finish ever in this event, and the winners, Denmark. The US crew finished in 5th—it was a great first showing in so many years for them and perhaps the start of a new trend in this event.
In the W1x, Australia's Kim Crow led the pack all the way down the course, followed by her neighbor and rival, Emma Twigg from New Zealand; the two, who took the top podium spots, were joined by the Czech sculler Mirka Knapkova. The USA's Elle Logan, a member of the USA W8+ last year, put forth a good race, but struggled to keep up with the more seasoned singles racers, finishing fifth. Logan, who medalled in this event at Lucerne, this result has to confirm that she can compete anywhere, with one oar or two.
The other finals of the afternoon were full of excitement. In the M2x, the winning Norwegian crew celebrated big time. The bowman took one oar out, stood up and waved the oar above his head. When they landed at the awards dock, he let out a guttural cry and ripped off his t-shirt. It's an understatement to say they were excited.
In the last five strokes of the W2x, the spectators let out an audible gasp when the leading New Zealand crew caught a crab while the Lithuanian women were charging for the line, passing them and winning by four-hundredths of a second. There was a moment where both crews had finished the race and had no idea who had won. The announcer made a point of announcing the finishing order three or four times for the benefit of the crowd and athletes. This win is Lithuania's first ever World Championship gold—making the win that much sweeter.
The Cuban sculler, Angel Fournier Rodriguez, finishing in second place in the M1x won Cuba's first ever medal at a World Championships. It was incredible moment as he beamed on the podium, making history for his country. As he stepped off the podium he flung his bouquet of flowers into the crowd, like a bridal bouquet toss (maybe the person who catches it will medal next year?), and as he walked back toward his boat, his coach and teammates nearly leapt over the barrier to celebrate with him. It was really a proud moment for all of them; a first medal holds so much possibility for the future.
The last of the US crews raced B finals as well today—both the Men's and Women's doubles. The M2x of Benjamin Dann and John Graves held the fourth place spot for the majority of the race, finishing behind Serbia, Australia and Great Britain.
The W2x of Meghan O'Leary and Ellen Tomek started off a bit slower than their competition, but moved smoothly from third place at the 500, to second at the thousand, and opened up in the second half of the race. They had a very strong first place finish; seventh in the world isn't a terrible place to end the season.
So here we are, at the end. The boatyard has begun to empty out; shells retuning to their home for this next year of training. Over the course of the eight days, 26 raced ferociously and medaled; Italy in their all-revealing white-bottomed unis, finished with the highest medal count.
There were two coinciding events at the end of the regatta: a big party out in the main square of the venue, where athletes were starting to celebrate with dancing and a bit of beer, and the official pomp and circumstance at the grandstand marking the end of the regatta. While the women's eight champs were boogying down, FISA President Donald Oswald was made an honorary resident of Chungju and the umpires paraded down the course waving their white flags and ringing hand bells they were the last people to cross the finish line on Tangeum Lake as a tribute to all their hard work this week. The FISA and Korean anthems were played as the flags were lowered and finally for the first time all week…Psy began to play over the loudspeakers as the crowds, for the last time in the grandstands, went absolutely wild.
We hope you have enjoyed our coverage of the worlds from Chungju; if you liked our features, videos and photos, help us keep bringing this coverage to you by supporting row2k!
Final round of athlete quotes below, courtesy of FISA:
Nils Jakob Hoff (M2x) – NOR – Gold
"We didn’t believe it until the last stroke. Then I lost my mind. This is the first gold medal in the double at the World Championships for Norway’s men’s rowing since Olaf won in 2003. This is a fantastic fresh start for Norway and we need to thank our Swedish coach Johan Flodin."
Rolandas Mascinskas (M2x) – LTU – Silver
"We tried to work throughout the entire race to be as fast as possible. The Norwegians were very fast in first thousand, we got closer the second thousand. We need a hundred metres more to beat them. The conditions were good, the weather during the competition days was much better than the training day, a bit cooler."
Francesco Fossi (M2x) – ITA – Bronze
"It went exactly according to plan. At the 1000 metres we were still at the back but we felt we could go and get a medal. It’s been a different season with a different coach, but it totally worked out and we’re really happy with the result."
Donata Vistartaite (W2x) – LTU – Gold
"The last 250m when we were passed by New Zealand, we were still pretty close but hoped that we could come back. We had also heard some noise from the New Zealand boat and we knew that they might be in trouble, so we pushed harder and harder. We believed in victory and wanted to win the gold medal. I saw that we passed them in the last stroke. This is our first gold medal at the World Championships and it doesn’t compare to any other victory."
Yuliya Bichyk (W2x) – BLR – Bronze
"We aimed for a finish between place 3 and 6, so this was the best scenario. The race was hard and I’m really happy with the result."
Morten Joergensen (LM4-) – DEN – Gold
"In the last 20 strokes I had absolutely nothing left. I did nothing, I could see they (NZL) were within half a length of us, but I had nothing left. And then it was over. This is my first World Championship gold, so after the Olympic and Europeans, this rounds everything out. In this race we went hard from the start and pushed even harder at 1000m to take the lead. Twenty strokes before the finish I looked to my left and in that moment I knew we would win it."
James Lassche (LM4-) – NZL – Silver
"We are very happy with silver. Of course it would have been nice to win, but you’ve got to be happy with silver at the World Championships. We’ve come a long way this season. We raced as we planned, but in the last 100 metres the Danes just got us, they had an extra gear."
Amanda Polk (W8+) – USA – Gold
"We had a great race, although it didn’t look so on the big screen we felt the field was tight and we didn’t count anybody out. We kept rowing all the way, pushing our speed and racing hard until the finish line. There was no complacency and we responded to any call that our Katelin, our coxswain, made."
Cristina Ilie (W8+) – ROU – Silver
"We were very happy about second place. We wanted to get silver because we know that the US are the best, but maybe we will get them in the future"
Carolyn Ganes (W8+) – CAN – Bronze
"We stuck to our plan. We are really happy because it’s a completely new crew except for one person, and also a new coxswain. It’s a great learning experience for us all to come away with a medal. I’m really proud of us all."
Ondrej Synek (M1x) – CZE – Gold
"This is one of the best moments of my life. I led from start to finish. It felt great and quite easy. I knew Marcel Hacker would be strong and I wanted to break him early and control the race, so I did just that. In the last 500m I felt that I was being pushed by Fournier Rodriguez and felt him coming. But after he passed Marcel he was happy with that and probably knew that he couldn’t catch me. The last 500m was hard."
Angel Fournier Rodriguez (M1x) – CUB – Silver
"I was overwhelmed at the finish line and I stopped too early. The first part of the race wasn’t that good, but I found my stride in the second half. I didn’t go into the race expecting anything, just wanted to go out and race hard. I didn’t focus on the medals, just going out to race hard and it worked well."
Marcel Hacker (M1x) – GER – Bronze
"It was such a tough race: respect to Ondrej and respect to Rodriguez. It was a really fantastic last 500m but now I’m really done. It’s very good to have the umpires on the sides, no waves from the speed boats, it’s a great idea and they should keep it for all the events. After 7 years, I have my first medal and I am just so happy about this. For the future, my aim is Rio 2016 if my health allows it and if I still have the power to do it."
Kim Crow (W1x) – AUS – Gold
"This is a very exciting feeling being a World Champion. This is a first World Championship gold medal for me. This was a long week, with so much time to get nervous and anxious. The race plan today was for the first 500, just to be in my own boat, so the first time I looked up at 750m I was surprised to see that I was ahead. From that moment on, I just kept going stroke after stroke to the finish line."
Mirka Knapkova (W1x) – CZE – Bronze
"In the end I am happy with bronze because it was very hard in the end. To me, it seemed like the water was quite heavy. The last 300m didn’t go as planned. I thought I could go faster, but I had no energy left for the sprint. The expectations were maybe a bit higher, but a medal is fine because the other girls are very good and it’s fun racing against them on this level."
Phelan Hill (M8+) – GBR – Gold
"I told them to keep it simple in the last 250m, keep the length and the legs to keep everything together. That was what we always talked about. It was an awesome race."
Eric Johannesen (M8+) – GER – Silver
"We let the Brits get too far away in the first 1500m. We planned to stay closer but we didn’t manage to do it. We paid the price when we couldn’t catch them in the sprint. We are happy with the result because we gave everything. It’s a new team and in this post-Olympic year we focused more on our studies and less on our training, so we are all in all happy with the result."
Tom Peszek (M8+) – USA – Bronze
"It was a great race. We executed the race plan. We pretty much expected the British and Germany to lead. The race was really hard, everyone gave what they could and I’m proud that we stuck together."