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The women’s eight is the focus of today’s review as World Rowing remembers the 14 Olympic boat classes that raced at the London 2012 Olympic Games Rowing Regatta.

On Thursday 2 August 2012 the United States women’s eight capped off a six-year winning streak with an Olympic gold medal. Much of the success has been driven by coach Tom Terhaar. Terhaar became the USA head women’s coach in 2001 and a year later his eight were World Champions. They went on to finish second behind Romania at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games but on their way to the final they gave the dominating Romanians something to think about when the US set a new World Best Time in their heat.

Romania had ruled the women’s eight through much of the previous decade with the Olympic gold being captured by the Romanian’s at the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympics. This came to a halt with the rise of Terhaar’s crews. After finishing fourth at the 2005 World Rowing Championships, the USA stepped up the following year to reset their own World Best Time in 2006. They also became the World Champions that year and they have not lost a race since.

Continually redefining the bar for success, the United States again established a new World Best Time earlier in 2012 at the Samsung World Rowing Cup in Lucerne, Switzerland. The time was set at 5:54.17 in the heats. At this same regatta the United States met Canada in the final. Canada gave the US a run for their money driving the boats to a photo finish. The United States won but tenuously held their winning edge by just 3/100th of a second.

This was the last time the Canadians and Americans met before London. The next time they would race each other was in the Olympic final. Leading up to the final both Canada and the United States won their respective heats sending them directly to the final. Canada had the psychological edge by recording a slightly faster qualifying time. Everything was thus set for a massive showdown on 2 August. The Netherlands and Romania had come through from the repechage as the next two fastest crews after they both went neck-and-neck for the full 2000m in their repechage.

In the Olympic final the United States crew of Erin Cafaro, Susan Francia, Esther Lofgren, Taylor Ritzel, Meghan Musnicki, Eleanor Logan, Caroline Lind, Caryn Davies and coxswain Mary Whipple took an edge at the start and never looked back. They won with over a second margin ahead of Canada in second and the Netherlands on the pace in third.

Romania, in fourth, found themselves off the Olympic medals podium for the first time since the 1980 Olympics. Romania’s time was just slightly faster than Great Britain in fifth and Australia in sixth – a spread of just over a second separating these three crews.

The success of the US women’s eight has meant that the members of the crew dominate the 2012 World Rowing Top 10 Female Rowers. Whipple is in the top spot and the remaining eight members of the Olympic crew filling out much of the rest of the top ten positions.

Romania used to be the crew that all countries looked to beat in the eight. Now it is the United States.

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