Asia’s turn for Olympic places
There are 17 Beijing Olympic qualification spots available. There will be 23 very happy athletes at the end of the Asian Olympic Qualification Regatta being held this weekend in Shanghai, China.
Many have just finished taking part in an Olympic Solidarity and FISA Supported Talent Identification Camp that was organized through the Chinese Rowing Association and Shanghai Water Sports Centre. The training camp had 21 nations take part and was managed by three “FISA Coaches”, Stani Slavova Andreas Leichtfuss and Frank Rogall.
Chris Perry, FISA Development Consultant for Asia who oversaw the camp was impressed by the enthusiasm of the teams taking part and the synergy they developed with the coaches who each had a group of athletes they worked with. “The coaches did a great job with the teams and there was a really positive atmosphere,” stated Perry.
The size of the camp meant that the Shanghai Water Sports Centre had to call in additional equipment in cooperation with the Chinese Rowing Association to make the event possible and deal with the various logistical issues of hosting such a large number of athletes and coaches. These teams are now focused on a first day of heats and repechages. The ever increasing rowing talent in Asia has meant that for the first time seeding of athletes has become a necessity. Competing for spots in four events, the men’s single (six places), lightweight men’s double (three places), women’s single (five places) and lightweight women’s double (three places), athletes from 24 countries will be getting to know the Shanghai Water Sports Centre intimately.
Perry explained that it is the biggest number of entries ever at a qualification event and there is considerable depth of talent including 23 entries in the men’s single. “The semis and finals are going to be tough. We should have some really exciting racing.” says Perry.
Riding on the results from last year’s international races and recent training, Japan’s lightweight women’s double of Misaki Kumakura and Akiko Iwamoto are looking good as is Iraq’s men’s single representative Haidar Nozad. The Iraqi team of three has been training in Tunisia before heading to Shanghai.
Despite Iran’s short competitive rowing history, they have been coming along in leaps and bounds under former Romanian Olympic coach Nicolae Gioga. Iran used the Seville training centre for their qualification build-up and have entered teams in all four events.
China qualified boats at last year’s World Rowing Championships and in Shanghai they hope to add a men’s single to their growing Olympic team. Liang Zhang is a hot favourite in the men’s single.
Palestine is sending Mark Gerban to qualify in the men’s single. Gerban, who usually races as a lightweight rower, has been a regular on the international scene over the last three years and has used Germany as his training base for much of this time.
Hong Kong and Singapore both have strong entries in the women’s single. Ka Man Lee will be racing for Hong Kong and Singapore is boating Kim Hiok Elesie Lim.
Aiming for her third Olympic Games, but this time in the lightweight women’s double, Thailand’s Phuttharaksa Nikree will join Anupong Thianjam to aim for one of the three double’s spots.
A total of 94 athletes are competing, 54 men and 40 women.
Racing starts with heats on Friday 25 April with repechages and semifinals taking place on Saturday followed by finals on Sunday 27 April