Dorney roar signals Paralympic rowing finals
In front of a capacity, 11,000 crowd, the finals for the London 2012 Paralympic Games saw adaptive rowing step up to a new level. In the pinnacle of adaptive rowing events, the Paralympic Games, medals in the four boats classes saw some of the best racing ever witnessed in this sport.
Alla Lysenko of Ukraine completely dominated the AS women’s single sculls while China’s Cheng Huang fought off Australia and Russia to win the AS men’s single sculls and also denying home favourite, Tom Aggar of Great Britain of a medal.
The Chinese made it two in a row by winning the TA mixed double sculls before Great Britain finally got a medal in the last race of the day, the LTA mixed coxed four.
Conditions on the Dorney Lake rowing regatta course saw virtually flat water with a slight cross-tail wind. Temperatures remained cool and overcast with spots of rain.
AS Women’s Single Sculls (ASW1x) – A-Final
It was nothing short of spectacular. The unbeaten Alla Lysenko of Ukraine bolted out of the start rating 72 strokes per minute, her arms barely visible due to their speed. Since beginning racing in 2009 Lysenko has remained unbeaten and as a full-time athlete, rowing is a big chunk of her post-accident life. Despite this awesome start by Lysenko, France’s Nathalie Benoit was making a courageous effort to keep up. Benoit finished second to Lysenko last year and won gold in 2010 (in Lysenko’s absence).
By the middle of the race, however, Lysenko was busy destroying the field and had a three-second lead over Benoit who was comfortably in second. But had Lysenko gone out too hard? It appeared not as Lysenko continued to move away from the rest of the field in the second half of the race. At the line Lysenko’s margin was nearly eight seconds. Lysenko had taken the AS women’s single sculls to a new level and become a Paralympic Champion for the first time. Benoit followed in second with Paralympic silver medallist from 2008, Liudmila Vauchok of Belarus finishing with bronze in third. The 11,000-strong crowd showed their appreciation at such a show of might.
Results: UKR, FRA, BLR, BRA, ISR, CAN
Alla Lysenko (UKR) - Gold
"Oh my God, I can't speak. I am so excited. Very happy. There was no pressure. I don't like to be the favourite, to be the leader. I like to keep it simple and be calm. I just start and finish."
Nathalie Benoit (FRA) - Silver
"I never thought I could get the gold so this is the best I could get. I am super happy. It went ideally. I've done it 100 times in my head and it was exactly as I had hoped. My family was here and I had lots of support.The crowd was huge and helped a lot."
Liudmila Vauchok (BLR) - Bronze
"This is not just a victory for myself but for my country and trainers. The medal means a lot. I now have experience for the next Games and I will work hard on my mistakes."
Korea’s Jongrye Lee was the fastest B-final qualifier after posting a very good time in yesterday’s repechage. Lee finished fourth in this event at last year’s World Rowing Championships and her expectations must have been higher than a B-final race. But Lee made the best of it and had an absolute flyer out of the start. With just 250m rowed Lee had already outclassed her competition and gained an open-water lead. This left Sandra Khumalo of South Africa and Martyna Snopek of Poland to fight it out for second.
With the tight battle continuing between Khumalo and Snopek, 2008 Paralympian Lee remained in an untouchable position out in front. Then coming through the 600m mark Khumalo did a piece that enabled her to break away from Snopek. But Lee was still way out of reach. Lee crossed the line a huge 21 seconds ahead of Khumalo in second. This is a good result for Khumalo who entered her first international event in rowing earlier this year.
Results: KOR, RSA, POL, POR, JPN, HUN
AS Men’s Single Sculls (ASM1x) – A-Final
As the Paralympic and World Champion’s name got read out before the start the roar of the crowd at Eton Dorney was deafening. The unbeaten Tom Aggar of Great Britain was racing. But earlier in this regatta Aggar had lost his World Best Time to Chinese newcomer, Cheng Huang. Aggar and Huang both won their respective heats two days ago and today they met for the first time.
But it was last year’s world silver medallist, Aleksey Chuvashev of Russia that had the early lead with Huang and Aggar following closely. The order remained the same at the half-way point and margins remained painfully tight with Australia’s Erik Horrie moving up into the leading action. Horrie is in his second year of adaptive rowing and he finished with bronze at the 2011 World Rowing Championships.
The crowd was going wild as their favourite, Aggar, started to be nudged out of the medals by the high-rating Horrie who was now in third. Meanwhile at the head of the field Huang had opened up a lead over Chuvashev. The charge to the line saw Huang, 30, whose physical disability is the result of polio, become a Paralympic Champion, Horrie charged through to take Paralympic silver with Chuvashev winning bronze. Aggar, for the first time in his rowing career, had not won.
Results: CHN, AUS, RUS, GBR, KOR, BRA
Cheng Huang (CHN) - Gold
"I am very excited for the gold and for breaking the record. I followed my coaches' instructions. The first part, I went at normal speed. From the 250m I started using all my energy and I had good control."
After close finishing times in the repechages yesterday, this was likely to be a battle between New Zealand’s Danny McBride and Juan Barcia Alonso of Spain. Barcia Alonso got away the quickest settling into a 32 stroke rate pace. Margins, however, remained very tight through the entire field. This was going to be a close fight. Then Germany and Argentina began to slip off the pace with the leading four boats nearly forming a line of just two seconds separation.Barcia Alonso did a push around the 600m mark and managed to gain a bit of an edge over his opposition with McBride making the best effort to move with the Spaniard. Coming into the final sprint disaster struck for Barcia Alonso. In the last 50m of the race Barcia Alonso’s strapping around his torso came undone. In his attempt to amend the issue McBride and Ronald Harvey of the United States managed to row through Spain. Full credit to Barcia Alonso who still managed to hold on to third despite the mishap and finish ninth overall at these Paralympic Games.
Results: NZL, USA, ESP, UKR, GER, ARG
TA Mixed Double Sculls (TAMix2x) – A-Final
In the heats two days ago China’s Xiaoxian Lou and Tianming Fei had set a World and Paralympic Best Time and set themselves up as the favourites for today’s A-final. They are the reigning World Champions and Fei is a full-time rower. At the start, 2011 world silver medallists, Perle Bouge and Stephane Tardieu of France got away first followed closely by China and Great Britain. But there was very little in it as the crowd roar voiced their approval at Great Britain’s position. The British crew is relatively new to the adaptive rowing scene with Nicholas Beighton taking up rowing after being injured while serving in the British army in Afghanistan. Beighton and Scowen finished sixth at the World Rowing Championships last year.By the middle of the race Lou and Fei had taken over in the lead with France holding on tightly. A big push at the 600m mark earned the Chinese nearly a boat-length lead with Great Britain still behind France in third and the USA closing in on Great Britain.
In the sprint to the line Lou and Fei held on to add Paralympic Champion to their World Champion status. Bouge and Tardieu remained in their regular spot of silver which they have maintained for the last two World Championships. Oksana Masters and Rob Jones of the United States got the better of Great Britain to pip them by 21/100th of a second at the line.
Results: CHN, FRA, USA, GBR, AUS, ITA
Tianming Fei (CHN)
"I feel very excited, I can't describe it. My hands hurt a lot because we have trained every morning and night to prepare. Even if my body is exhausted, my mind is full of energy and excitement. I hope Paralympic rowing will become better and stronger because of China's success in London."
Stephane Tardieu (FRA)
"We started strong but lost in the last 400 metres. We couldn't have done much better. China were too good, well done to them. We wanted gold but any medal is great. We are always second but that's sport I guess."
Perle Bouge (FRA)
"It has been a fantastic experience. We'll look back on the race and see what we could have done better. I'm happy with the medal but wish it was gold coloured. Two medals for France (Nathalie Benoit took silver in the arms only women's single sculls earlier on) is great for the country and encouraging for the sport"
Robert Jones (USA)
"My body hurts. I couldn't really tell where we were at the end. We just sprinted and pulled out everything we had. We just couldn't quite catch France. I knew we were pretty close in the last 600 metres. I knew that was the time to empty the bank account of all the work we have been doing over the last year to get the bronze. Thankfully that was enough."
Oksana Masters (USA)
"I promised not to cry. I feel pretty amazing. Oh my God I thought we came fourth, I had no idea. I am speechless, this is unreal. We have been together less than a year. I know I am definitely going to keep rowing. I love it. I am just going to live in this moment right now and see what happens. I am definitely going to celebrate. Enjoy it, take it in and celebrate with the rest of our crew."
Nick Beighton (GBR)
"I am proud to have done this for other soldiers who have been injured. I hope it shows that life goes on and it's all gonna be fine. I want to enjoy life, that's what it's for. We are doing this because we love rowing. It is sport, life goes on and we can be proud of what we have done. I will be disappointed with this for a while but I will pick myself up."
Samantha Scowen (GBR)
"Obviously we are absolutely gutted not to get a medal. It's heartbreaking. I think fourth is probably the worst place to come. I'd almost rather come fifth."
As the rain began to fall the B-final of the TA mixed double sculls got under way with Ukraine’s Dmytro Ivanov and Iryna Kyrychenko taking a very slight lead at the start. The duo are two-time World Champions with a fourth-place finish at the World Rowing Championships last year. Today they maintained the lead through the middle of the race but Israel, Brazil and Poland were right with them. The margins were so close that Josiane Lima and Isaac Ribeiro of Brazil managed to take the lead through the third quarter of the race.
The intensity remained hot amongst the leading boats as Ivanov and Kyrychenko pushed hard to regain the lead. In a furious sprint to the line Ivanov and Kyrychenko managed to inch ahead of Lima (a 2008 Paralympic medallist) and Ribeiro. Ukraine had claimed seventh overall at the 2012 Paralympic Games.
Results: UKR, BRA, ISR, POL, BLR, RUS
LTA Mixed Coxed Four (LTAMix4+) – A-Final
An impressive race in the heats by Germany two days ago gave them a win plus a new World Best Time. Today they faced reigning World Champions and winner of the other heat Great Britain for the first time since the Munich Samsung World Rowing Cup in June when Great Britain won over Germany by the slightest of margins. Germany’s Anke Molkenthin, Astrid Hengsbach, Tino Kolitscher, Kai Kruse and coxswain Katrin Splitt jumped out to an early lead with Great Britain chasing hard.
As the half-way point came into view Germany and Great Britain had moved away from the rest of the field leaving Ukraine and China to fight it out for the bronze medal. Meanwhile the battle at the front of the field remained ferocious with the crowd roaring as Great Britain got into the lead around the 700m mark. Once in front Pamela Relph, Naomi Riches, David Smith, James Roe and coxswain Lily van den Broecke gained huge confidence and began to inch away from Germany. The crowd went wild as Great Britain had won their first medal in adaptive rowing at these Paralympic Games. Germany took silver and Ukraine got the better of the battle with China to take the bronze.
Results: GBR, GER, UKR, CHN, ITA, USA
Naomi Riches (GBR) - Gold
"We planned to race hard. You have to take yourself to a place you have never been before. That is certainly the most painful thing I have ever done."
Pamela Relph (GBR) - Gold
"We knew we were fast. We've trained for this one moment for years and there was no way we were going to let anyone beat us. This is our lake."
Astrid Hengsbach (GER) - Silver
"We expected it to be this close. We knew the British were really quick. They are a super team but we came second and that is great."
Tino Kolitscher (GER) - Silver
"It was just such a natural feeling. I started a year ago and though I am tired now, I know I have won a silver medal. It is the best I could ever hope for. I am disappointed that we could not go for more. The heats were perfect and today, (we made) little mistakes."
Kateryna Morosova (UKR) - Bronze
"It was agony waiting to find out if we had got it (the bronze), I really won't believe it until I get my medal round my neck. For sure I was hoping for a medal but this is really surprising still. I want to relish this moment because tomorrow will not feel as special as today."
Despite being second at the World Rowing Championships last year and World Champions in 2010, Canada has not had the best season in 2012 and today they raced in the B-final. The Canadians had secured a middle lane alongside France, who finished fourth at the World Rowing Championships in 2011. This B-final was likely to be a race between these two countries. As expected Canada and France moved away from the rest of the field very early on with the French having a very slight edge.
The head-to-head battle continued through the middle of the race as Canada and France both fought it out to finish first. Canada has retained all of the rowers that finished second last year and three of the rowers that raced at the Paralympic Games in 2008. France had retained three of the rowers from their 2011 crew.
A solid piece by Canada in the third quarter of the race earned them a slight lead, but France continued to hold on tightly. In the sprint to the line Canada proved to be the better crew.
Results: CAN, FRA, BRA, IRL, RUS, BLR