Brutal semifinals at 2017 World Rowing Champs
Some of the best racing so far went on today in the first round of semifinals at the 2017 World Rowing Championships in Sarasota-Bradenton, United States. Athletes knew that a top three finish was absolutely necessary as this would get them into the final. It was not unusual for fourth-place to miss out by a fraction of a second.
Flat calm conditions and sunny skies with temperatures reaching into the low 30s degrees Celsius was the picture at the Nathan Benderson Park regatta course.
Lightweight Men’s Single Sculls (LM1x) – Semifinals
The reigning World Champion, Paul O’Donovan of Ireland shot out very quickly in Semfinal One. But then the European Champion, Michael Schmid of Switzerland showed superior speed and took the lead. Now sitting in second was the winner of World Rowing Cup III, Artur Mikolajczewski of Poland. Mikolajczewski had a real fight to get through to this semifinal after taking a bad stroke early on in his heat three days ago. But his talent was good enough to bring him through. Schmid still had the lead with half the race gone. Then in the third 500 the Olympic silver medallist from the double, O’Donovan picked up the pace and moved into second, challenging Schmid for the lead. Rating 36 O’Donovan was now the leader with Brazil’s Uncas Batista flying. In the last 50m Batista overtook the World Cup winner, Mikolajczewski to grab a spot in the final. Schmid held on to second and O’Donovan was first.
Semifinal Two saw Mexico’s Alexis Lopez Garcia take a flying start before the more experienced Lukas Babac of Slovakia got a very slight margin. Babac sat next to Matthew Dunham of New Zealand who had recorded the fastest qualifying time from the heats. On the other side of Babac was Olympic medallist from the lightweight double, Kristoffer Brun of Norway. Babac has had a mixed season so far but he did grab a World Cup medal. He was still leading at the half way point with Brun slotting into second just ahead of Dunham. In the final sprint there was very little between Brun, Babac, Dunham and Lars Wichert of Germany. Brun then put the hammer down as did Wichert at 38. Babac broke. The Slovakian had hit the wall and could only paddle home. Brun took first and with the fastest qualifying time. Dunham, who won the Henley Royal Regatta earlier this season, took second and Wichert’s amazing finish gave him third.
Qualifiers: IRL, SUI, BRA, NOR, NZL, GER
Lightweight Women’s Single Sculls (LW1x) – Heats
Kirsten McCann of South Africa was the dominant one at the start of Semifinal One. Olympian McCann has moved from the double to the single this season and already medalled at the World Rowing Cup. Switzerland’s Particia Merz followed in second with Marieke Keijser of the Netherlands slotting into third. Merz medalled at all three World Rowing Cups this season including gold at World Rowing Cup I. But McCann remained in the lead with Merz and Keijser pulling away from the rest of the field. In the final sprint McCann completely underrated the sprinting Merz doing just enough to stay ahead of Merz. Keijser, the 2017 under-23 champion, held on to third.
What a start for Kenia Lechuga Alanis of Mexico in Semifinal Two. Lechuga took a full boat length lead with barely 100m gone. Could the Olympian, Lechuga maintain this pace? Lechuga had the lead with 500m gone, but that was it. Ireland’s Denise Walsh then moved into the front as the entire field followed the Walsh example. Now Mary Jones of the United States made her move and was in second at the half way point. Jones has been plugging away at the international level since 2014 and at World Rowing Cup III she finished fourth. Now it was Walsh, Jones and Emma Fredh of Sweden all in a line together going into the final sprint. Walsh then went to 34 to try and hold the lead with Fredh managing to get the better of Jones by rating 33. These three were now completely clear of the rest of the field. With crowd encouragement, Jones did a final burst and with Walsh taking first, Jones was second over Fredh.
Qualifiers: RSA, SUI, NED, IRL, USA, SWE
Lightweight Men’s Quadruple Sculls (LM4x) – Semifinals
Semifinal One had France move away at the fastest pace. A 36 stroke rate pace kept France in the lead. Stroked by World Champion from the double, Stany Delayre kept his boat out in front with Italy slotting into second. But the pack of six boats remained so close together and at the half way point just two seconds separated the top five boats. Only Australia seemed to be slipping off the pace. Italy then moved into a 41 stroke rate piece. France reacted back to the Italian charge that brought them through to 500m to go. France at 34-35 remained in control despite Italy now at 39. The World Champion Germans were now slipping back behind Austria. This was a full on five boat sprint to the line. Italy was at 43, France held 36 and Switzerland was at 37. The race was decided. France – Italy – Switzerland. France had recorded the fastest qualifying time.
Greece had recorded the fastest qualifying time in the heats two days ago and they sat in the centre lane of Semifinal Two. All boats moved away together with the British getting away the quickest before Japan and Greece began to inch away. Japan then got their bow in front as Greece challenged for the lead. Greece, the World Best Time holders, now got a very small margin as Great Britain moved into a piece. Japan would have to give it their all to hold onto second. Seat by seat, Great Britain took the lead and went into the final 500m in a very handy spot. Japan now got the better of Greece with the Czech Republic moving up. At 37, Greece tried to fight back and at the line they got their nose ahead Japan.
Qualifiers: FRA, ITA, SUI, GBR, GRE, JPN
Men’s Four (M4-) – Semifinals
European Champions and Olympic medallists, Italy had recorded the fastest qualifying time in the heats three days ago. Today they raced in Semifinal One and they squeezed into an early lead. Five of the finalists from World Rowing Cup III were in this race with the young United States crew joining this bunch. Italy settled to 40 with the Dutch at 39 and the Olympic Champions, Great Britain at 37. A push from the Netherlands got them to the half way point in first as Great Britain began to move. But what a close race. Just three seconds separated the entire field. Still at 40, Italy got back into the lead. The British, at 36, looked powerful but just didn’t seem to be able to get their stroke rate any higher. The United States now was motoring. Their stroke rate at 39 they were coming through from behind to close on the three leading crews. The Netherlands, at 40, came up to challenge for second. At the line Italy had held on to first with Great Britain staying just ahead of the Netherlands.
In the middle lane was winner of their heat, Australia in Semifinal Two. Germany had the best start and they were the first to get their bow ball in front with Australia right with them. Australia are the Olympic silver medallists and World Rowing Cup III silver medallists and they now pushed ahead of Germany. Australia then pulled clean away from the rest of the field. Hill, Hargreaves, Turrin and Hicks of Australia were on fire and already before the 1000m mark they were looking untouchable. It’s been 26 years since Australia won the world title. Could they do it at this regatta? Denmark had now moved into second with Germany holding on to third. Australia moved to an open water lead as Canada came up to challenge for a qualifying spot in the closing 400m. The Canadians were at 43 and so was Denmark. Germany held on at 39. As Australia crossed the line with the fastest qualifying time, Denmark held on to second and Germany crossed just ahead of Canada.
Qualifiers: ITA, GBR, NED, AUS, DEN, GER
Men’s Pair (M2-) – Semifinals
Both Italy and New Zealand won their respective heats three days ago and they took up the two centre lanes in Semifinal One. Italy’s Matteo Lodo and Giuseppe Vicino are the European Champions while New Zealand’s Thomas Murray and James Hunter won World Rowing Cup III in July. Murray and Hunted moved through the first 500m into the lead with Serbia’s Milos Vasic and Nenad Bedik just a fraction ahead of Lodo and Vicino. Bedic and Vasic took two silver medals this season through the World Rowing Cups and they continued to be practically dead level with Lodo and Vicino. Murray and Hunter remained with a very small lead as these three boats moved away from the rest of the field. The New Zealanders held 37 coming through to the final sprint and then moved to 39 as the Italians came flying through at 40. What a finish! Italy had the momentum and had moved into the lead. Serbia looked content to be third. Italy had won.
Semfinal Two had the fastest qualifier from the heats, Martin and Valent Sinkovic of Croatia. The Sinkovic brothers took Olympic gold in the men’s double and then, to spice up their training, swapped to sweep rowing this season. They finished second at their one race this season, World Rowing Cup III. The strong Sinkovic’s were the first to show with Tom Jeffery and Thomas George of Great Britain going head-to-head with Alexander Sigurbjonsson and Pau Vela Maggi of Spain. Croatia got to the first 500m in the lead with margins remaining tight.
The Sinkovic brothers now began to break away from the field with Spain, France and Great Britain neck-and-neck for second. Jeffery and George then got into a clear second as Romania began to put on the heat and challenge Spain and France for third. Aicoboae and Pascari of Romania were at 41 and giving it their all and France’s Onfroy brothers did a big push. The Sinkovic’s had won and in the fastest qualifying time with the British in second and France in third.
Qualifiers: ITA, NZL, SRB, CRO, GBR, FRA
Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x) – Semifinals
The unbeaten World and Olympic Champions, Pierre Houin and Jeremie Azou of France featured in the centre lane of Semifinal One. Houin and Azou performed a beautiful heats race three days ago, winning by a big margin and recording the fastest qualifying time. Houin and Azou settled at a 38 stroke rate pace to be out in front with Poland and Ukraine battling it out for second. At the half way point France was still in the lead with Poland’s Jerzy Kowalski and Milosz Jankowski getting just ahead of Ukraine. Germany’s Lucas Schaefer and Jason Osborne had now done a big push and moved into third. Ukraine had no reply as Schaefer and Osborne went after Poland. At 39 strokes per minute France crossed the line in first with Poland holding on to second and Germany qualifying from third.
Italy and China won their respective heats earlier in the week and they took up the two centre lanes today in Semifinal Two. Pietro Ruta and Stefano Oppo of Italy finished second at World Rowing Cup III and they took a slight margin at the start. China’s Man Sun and Junjie Fan took fourth at World Rowing Cup II and they got to the first 500m ahead of Ruta and Oppo. The Italians stuck with China through the second 500 as Belgium slotted into third. Ruta and Oppo then did a push that took them into the lead with 500m left to row. Sun and Fan held on but could not retake the lead. Belgium’s Tim Brys and Niels van Zandweghe held on to third.
Qualifiers: FRA, POL, GER, ITA, CHN, BEL
Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x) – Semifinals
In the centre lanes were New Zealand’s Zoe McBride and Jackie Kiddle and Poland’s Weronika Deresz and Joanna Dorociak of Semifinal One. These two countries won their respective heats and recorded almost identical finishing times. At the start Deresz and Dorociak were the first to show. But not for long as winners of World Rowing Cup III, McBride and Kiddle picked up the pace and took the lead. The black New Zealand boat now had nearly a boat length over Poland and Denmark who were going neck-and-neck for second. Juliane Rasmussen and Aja Runge Holmegaard of Denmark raced at the Rio Olympics together and they continued to challenge Poland into the second half of the race.
McBride and Kiddle then completely broke away from the field to a clear water lead. Rating 35 New Zealand looked untouchable. Poland at 36 and Denmark at 37 had to keep an eye on China, but in the last 50m it was clear who had qualified.
Semifinal Two saw Fini Sturm and Leonie Pless of Germany be the first to show. Sturm and Pless got to this semifinal through the repechage. But the lead didn’t last long as the United States’ Emily Schmieg and Michelle Sechser came back from a rather slow start to move into the front. The British crew of Katherine Copeland and Emily Craig. The British and the Americans then went for it at the front of the field with France on the pace. Then in the close of the race Romania’s Lehaci and Beleaga picked up the pace and came charging. The crowd was behind the United States and Schmieg and Sechser got into the lead and held it to the end.
Qualifiers: NZL, POL, DEN, USA, ROU, GBR
Men’s Quadruple Sculls (M4x) – Semifinals
Semifinal One had the Netherlands get away very quickly with Ukraine taking chase. Then Great Britain picked up the pace and Lambert, Collins, Walton and Beaumont of Great Britain got in a position where they were neck and neck with the Netherlands. The Dutch tried to hold on with Poland very much on the pace. The finishing sprint had begun and the British looked great as Poland, the Netherlands and France all vied for the remaining two qualifying spots. The late charge by France turned out to be too late. France missed out on the final by just one second. Great Britain had recorded the fastest qualifying time.
Olympic medallists, Estonia led Semifinal Two with a blistering start. The very powerful Lithuanian crew followed in second with Norway holding the pace. Estonia continued to lead, but by such a small margin. They still had the lead coming into the last 500m with just a second separating the top three boats. Then New Zealand started to close and vie for a qualification spot. The ratings rose. Norway was having the race of their second. Lithuania was powering through. Estonia was holding on. Nemeravicius, Dziaugys, Mascinskas and Adomavicius of Lithuania got to the line first.
Qualifiers: GBR, NED, POL, LTU, EST, NOR