The US Men's and Women's eight each took fourth today, missing the medal stand by one spot, and the US team ended the weekend with the same medal count--three--that they had after the podium finishes by the LW2x (2nd), LW2- (2nd), and W2- (3rd) during the first two days of finals.
The Women's Double took fifth in today's A Final, the US's third A final in a row in the event counting Tokyo and the pre-COVID 2019 Worlds--but the eights had been seen as the USA's best shot to grab another medal, if not two, on the final day.
The two Olympic class medals, in the women's light double and pair, make for two more than the medals shutout at the Tokyo regatta last year, and they do come at the end of a year full of retooling if not rebuilding: new selection procedures, a new High Performance Director and, in many ways a sea-change in the philosophy behind how to build and support a US Team.
US Eights Place Fourth, Just Out of the Medals
There was no mistaking the high hopes that both US eights would medal and start the Paris 2024 quadrennial on the podium--particularly after the women's eight won their preliminary race for lanes, and after the strong Rep turned in by the men just behind the Dutch who took silver today.
Against those hopes, missing the podium became a bitter pill, especially since those hopes may have been highest amongst the US athletes themselves, many of whom were eager to prove themselves here.
"We worked extremely hard through camp to create a boat that would be competitive on the world stage, and we did just that," said M8 coxswain Jimmy Catalano. "Fourth was not what we exactly we wanted but I’m extremely proud of my guys and the race, the training, and everything we had we left out on the water.
"I wish we could have been bringing home some hardware to the States but in the end, it didn’t fall in our favor. The guys are frustrated yet proud of our work, and hungry for next year to train harder, get faster and be the best crew out on the water!"
Six seat Andrew Gaard told USRowing that the eight "knew that we could make a positive step with each practice and each race."
"Today, we knew that we had to get our bowball in front the first 750. We kind of got dropped by the field a bit too much. We had to make it up in the third 500. We had a really solid finishing 500 meters, but it wasn't enough to make up for that first 750 meters. All-in-all, we made great strides throughout the week, but there were other faster boats."
"The whole system has been very positive," Gaard said. "I think that word is key. It was a whole system. We had (almost) all boats training together in Princeton for the majority of the summer, and you could feed off of the energy in the other boats and from the other people, so in that sense, I thought it was a great place to start for the Paris 2024 campaign. It certainly was one of the most exciting and rewarding summers that I've had in rowing."
Bow man Alex Karwoski, a six-time member of the Men's Eight, including at the Rio Games, called it a "privilege to race in the US Men’s 8+ this summer."
"Everyone knows how tumultuous things can be in a post-Olympic year and I have to give tremendous credit to the multiple clubs around the country, the new high performance director, and the coaches for putting together a competitive team. "We got better throughout the regatta. We knew how stiff the competition was going to be in the final and set our sights on racing the Dutch right next to us. As we got into our base rhythm, we were working on moving back into contention for a medal but didn’t quite have the finishing push to get us there. As always, I give all credit to the guys in the boat--Jimmy, Pieter, Chris, Andrew, Mike, Liam, Mike, and Nick are all impressive athletes and I’m lucky to have raced with them--and to Tom Terhaar whose coaching was inspiring these past two months."
US Women's Eight
Vitas and Wagner Place Fifth
In the only other A Final on the day for the US, Sophia Vitas and Kristi Wagner raced to fifth, overtaking the German duo who had gone out with the leaders off the line before falling back. The US has become a fixture of sorts in the Double final, making it every year since (and including) the Rio Olympics--and has done so with six different athletes in four different combinations.
The last three years in particular have been a sort of baton-passing within the boat: Gevvie Stone rowed with Cicily Madden in 2019 and then with Kristi Wagner in 202One. Now Kristi Wagner remains in the boat joining new partner Vitas.
The duo willed themselves into the A Final with a massive sprint in the semis as we covered on Friday, but they were off the pace of the Romanians and Austrians there, and those crews went on to win today (Romania) and take fourth (Austria).
"Today wasn’t our day," said bow seat Wagner. "We’ve have more speed and it’s frustrating not to have your best race on the day. I am proud of us though, for fighting until the end."
Wagner is looking forward to returning to training this fall.
"I’m grateful to have gotten the opportunity to row with Sophia, and the entire Texas group for the past few months. I’m excited to get back to Saratoga and ARION, and I’ll do some fall racing but mostly just looking forward to getting back to work after I take little time off."
US Women's Double
Davison's Most Complete Piece in M1x
Ben Davison made a bid to take his B Final race by the scruff of the neck, crushing the start and taking an early lead. The Japanese sculler, Ryuta Arakawa, though was able to match pace and get ahead. Arakawa made a great run here to follow-up his B Final 5th place in Tokyo, and took the win ahead of Davison.
Taking 8th overall gave Davison the best finish for an American in the M1x since Don Smith came 9th in at the Sydney Games in 2000. In fact, even the B Final has been rare air for US Men's single scullers since Ken Jurkowski left the stage in 2016.
"Today was good," said Davison. "In the semi final, I feel like I let myself down a bit. It was a poor performance. We put a lot of work in and I think I was better than that performance, so I was a bit disappointed in that race.
"I wanted to come out today and just have a race that I was proud of. We've made a lot of progress this season. It's my first year really giving the single a go, and I think we've made progress and we can make more progress next year. It was good just to have one race here that I was proud.
"This was more of a complete piece. I don't know exactly what went wrong in the semi final but it wasn't a full piece. I was happier to have a better start today, and I was in the race; in the semifinal I never really got into the race.
"I've made the same mistake all season now, where I've been getting off with too slow of a start, but I can get away with that in some of the earlier races--the heats, the quarters--but as I found out in the semi, if you give these guys two or three seconds at the 500, it's game over.
"I would have liked to have held off a guy from Japan, but he's good. He's fast and he's been in the single for a long time."
Phifer and Koszyk 2x Passed Poles to Win Men's Double B Final
Tom Phifer and Soryn rowed Poland down to win their B final, and they did it by rowing powerfully through the body of the race to first pass Poland, and then to hold off the last ditch sprint the Poles launched in the closing strokes.
Taking 7th overall, Phifer and Koszyk became the first American double to finish this high since the US took 7th in the 2010 Worlds at Karapiro; the 2004 Olympics was the last time the US made an A Final.
"We didn't really have a ton of pressure on us today," said Koszyk afterwards, "and if you look at the regatta, we've been doing the same time every race. Nobody's going to pull something out of their hat that they haven't already done, so knew we're at this speed, now execute the race plan and just put down a full piece--like we've been doing all summer--and just see where it puts us.
"We had a better start and we were more in it. At about 600 meters, I just told Tom, 'Let's take a ten here to get a couple of seats and start putting pressure on people.' I think that was pretty effective. We got a seat there [on Poland] and just started working off of that.
"Our coach has been telling us, 'You're going to have to go before you want to,' so I thought, with 500 to go, 'OK, it's a little bit of a ways out, but let's go.'
"I told Tom, I'm going to call it there, and it's going to be 20-15-10-10-5. Don't look out and just throw down a whole piece.
"About 1000 meters in, I saw we were in second and I know we have a middle. That's our thing; we're probably more aerobic than we are big power guys. So I thought, alright, we got this if we are even with everybody here."
US Men's Double
Mangan Takes Fourth in PR1 M1x B Final, Kohler Wins W1x C Final
The other US finals today saw Andrew Mangan take 4th in the PR1 M1x B Final. Mangan finished 10th overall in this, his Worlds debut, out of the 17 PR1 single scullers racing here.
Earlier in the morning, Kara Kohler made the most of the C Final in which she found herself as the week went on: she finished first today, rowing smooth and powerfully, ahead of Norway's Siri Eva Kristiansen. The Norwegian made it close at the finish, but Kohler was never seriously under threat, leading by clear water through the body of the race.
Why, the Head of the Charles, of course--with a short stopover in Wales for the Beach Sprints Championship. See you in Beantown. Then maybe some Gold Cup racing?
Notes From the Course
US Sculling Royalty: Tiff Wood, whose wife Susan was coaching the PR3 Mix 2x, was in the stands this weekend, watching the US races and reuniting with Uwe Mund, the former East German sculler who medaled with Wood--in fact just ahead of Wood--at the 1983 World Championships. Mund took Silver and Wood--rowing a sliding rigger single--won the bronze. row2k caught up with Wood and Mund and will bring you that full interview next week.
The "Ochal" Standard? The men's double was the second "small" second boat here in Racice to get close to what one might call the Ochal standard: US Olympian and 2012 Bronze medalist Glenn Ochal has the previous best pair finish (6th in 2014), as we noted yesterday, and double finish (7th, in 2010) for the US. Phifer and Kozsyk matched that today when they successfully moved through the Poles.
Heat Mapping the Finals: World Rowing has started tweeting out "heat maps" using the split data colected from the racing crews. Here is a look at the Men's Eight final, heat-mapped...green means go(ing):