Fighting to avoid elimination at Olympic Qualification Regatta
Semifinals at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland came down to heartbreakingly close finishes and 100 per cent effort. Today rowers had to finish in the top three of their semifinal if they wanted to earn a position in the final and thus remain in contention for the 2012 Olympic Games. All other crews would be, in official speak, eliminated.
Of the four events being raced, two of the races were so close that the officials in the finishing tower spent a number of long and tense minutes to make their decision. This added to the already tense atmosphere on the Rotsee regatta course.
For the rowers water conditions were great. Flat water and very little wind made for fair racing. Temperatures were cool in the mid-teens Celsius.
Men’s Double Sculls (M2x) – Semifinals
Narrowed down to the remaining 12 nations, it was up to these athletes to finish in a top three spot in order to make the final and keep their Olympic hopes alive. Semifinal One featured the favourites, Alessio Sartori and Romano Battisti of Italy. Sartori is already an Olympic Champion and success today means he will be one step closer to going to his fifth Olympic Games. Battisti was still at the under-23 level when the Beijing Olympics were on. His goal is to get to his first Olympics.
Sartori and Battisti got out in front at the start with Lauris Sire and Dairis Adamaitis of Latvia slotting into second. Sire and Adamaitis are two-time under-23 World Champions and if they qualify they will be Latvia’s sole representation at the Olympic regatta in London. As Italy remained in the lead full credit must go to Sire and Adamaitis who stuck to the Italians like glue. Behind them Ukraine’s Dmytro Mikhay and Artem Morozov were a way back in third hoping to stay ahead of Russia.
The order did not change with Sartori and Battisti remaining in first and the Latvian’s sticking right with them. Italy finished on a 37 stroke rate, Latvia on 33 and Ukraine held onto third rating 31. After the race the effort was obvious as Adamaitis had to get medical help before being able to row the boat back to the boat-park and start his preparation for tomorrow’s final.
Results: ITA, LAT, UKR, RUS, EGY, SVK
Semifinal Two featured Azerbaijan’s young sensation, 16-year-old Boris Yotov. Teamed up with Aleksandar Aleksandrov the duo came through the heats looking strong. But today it was Ruoqian Yin and Wei Kang of China who had the early lead. Then Samuel Stitt and Warren Anderson of the United States got their nose in front. Stitt and Anderson qualified the quad last year but have now switched to the double.
As crews went into the second half of the race margins remained close between five crews. Then Aleksandrov and Yotov did a huge push, overtaking the United States and moving into the lead. Stitt and Anderson held on. So did China and the Czech Republic. In the sprint to the line there was nothing between Azerbaijan and the United States. They crossed the line in unison, both qualifying for the final along with China in third.
Results: AZE, USA, CHN, CZE, POL, ISR
Olympic Qualification Places Available: 2
Women’s Single Sculls (W1x) – Semifinals
In each semifinal the top three scullers would earn a spot in tomorrow’s final. This meant that three crews would miss out. In Semifinal One Australia’s Kim Crow raced. Crow has already been selected by her country to race in the double but when her partner got injured selectors decided to hedge their bets and put Crow into the single in case partner Kerry Hore is not fit enough. Crow, who finished second in the double last year, led this semifinal from start to finish and had an open water lead by the half-way point.
Moving into second was Iva Obradovic of Serbia. Obradovic raced at the Beijing Olympics where she finished eleventh in the single. Last year Obradovic tried to qualify for the Olympics in the double. Back in the single Obradovic was firmly in second. The big fight was going on between Norway’s Tale Gjoertz and Sanita Puspure of Ireland. Puspure had a slight advantage but Gjoertz was sprinting hard. Both rating in the high 30s, Puspure managed to just maintain the third spot. Crow, Obradovic and Puspure qualify for the final.
Results: AUS, SRB, IRL, NOR, UKR, GBR
Semifinal Two opened with Fie Udby Erichsen of Denmark in the lead. Erichsen came into the single two years ago and instantly showed that she had something special. Last year she finished 14th at the World Rowing Championships, missing out on Olympic qualification. Today Erichsen was taking no chances and by the half-way point she had a small lead over Kaisa Pajusalu of Estonia but was continuing to increase her lead.
Pajusalu remained in second with Genevra Stone of the United States pressing the Estonian hard. Coming into the final sprint Stone managed to push ahead of Pajusalu who now looked content just to qualify. Sophie Balmary of France, meanwhile, was way back in fourth. In the final sprint Erichsen remained comfortably in first, Stone held on to second with Pajusalu had third. The Olympic comeback of Balmary today came to an end.
Results: DEN, USA, EST, FRA, LAT, BUL
Olympic Qualification Places Available: 4
Men’s Single Sculls (M1x) – Semifinals
Down to the final 12 nations, these scullers had to finish in the top three of each semifinal if they wanted to get to the final and thus keep their 2012 Olympic hopes alive. After a false start by Slovakia, Olympic finalist in Beijing, Tim Maeyens of Belgium led Semifinal One. Maeyens did not have a good World Championships last year and so has to try and qualify for his third Olympic Games through this ‘Regatta of Death’.
By the middle of the race Maeyens was the man to beat, now building up a two second lead over Peter Galambos of Hungary in second. Galambos is a lightweight rower who has moved to this open event with the hope of making his first Olympic Games. Meanwhile, lightweight single World Champion, Henrik Stephansen of Denmark was doing all that he could to work back from a very slow start. A big piece in the third 500 brought Stephansen into third and he now challenged Galambos. Galambos, happy just to qualify, did not sprint the finish as Stephansen shot past using a 37 stroke rate. Maeyens, Stepahnsen and Galambos qualify for the final.
Results: BEL, DEN, HUN, GRE, LAT, SVK
Semifinal Two opened with Georgi Bozhilov of Bulgaria in the lead. Second in the single at last year’s World Rowing Under-23 Championships, Bozhilov missed out on qualifying the single scull for the Olympics at the World Rowing Championships in Bled by just one spot. Bozhilov continued his quest to get to London today and by the half-way point he had more than a boat length lead.
Meanwhile, behind Bozhilov, Mario Vekic of Croatia had got his nose ahead of Slovenia and was moving rapidly up on Bozhilov. Poland’s Michal Sloma was also doing a huge piece. Vekic, who raced at the Beijing Olympics in the double, continued to move and coming into the final sprint Vekic was in front. The sprint was on to the end. Vekic was on 35 strokes per minute, Bozhilov and Sloma both struck 37 strokes per minute. Down the outside, and from the back of the field, Serbia’s Marko Marjanovic was giving it has all at a 43 stroke rate. Marjanovic had left his charge just a fraction too late. Vekic, Bozhilov and Sloma qualify for the final.
Results: CRO, BUL, POL, SRB, SLO, RUS
Olympic Qualification Places Available: 4
Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x) – Semifinals
The starting blocks on the 2000m Rotsee course were about to see 24 nervous lightweight men line up. They were all aiming for a top three finish in the two semifinals as this would earn them a spot in the final and thus keep their Olympic hopes for 2012 alive.
Semifinal One featured the ever-impressive comeback of 2005 World Champions, Zsolt Hirling and Tamas Varga of Hungary. Hirling and Varga took a post-Beijing break joining up together this year with the aim of getting to the London Olympics. Today they led the field over the United States (Andrew Campbell and William Daly). This new American combination featured Campbell who made history in the US by medalling in the lightweight single at the World Rowing Under-23 Championships last year and medalling in the World Rowing Junior Championships in 2010. Campbell and Daly held on to second while Poland and Switzerland fought it out for the third and final qualifying spot.
As the finishing line came into view, Hungary remained in the lead, the United States were firmly in second and Switzerland’s Silvan Zehnder and Michael Schmid had got the better of Poland to take third and qualify for tomorrow’s final.
Results: HUN, USA, SUI, POL, SWE, SLO
Spain grabbed the bull by the horns in Semifinal Two and got their boat in front with Roderick Chisholm and Thomas Gibson of Australia chasing hard. Going through the middle of the race Spain remained just a tad in front of Chisholm and Gibson with Austria and Bulgaria very much on the pace.
The third 500 had Australia just in front with a virtual line forming between Zlatko Karaivanov and Vassil Vitanov of Bulgaria, Paul and Bernhard Sieber of Austria and the Spaniards. A full-on sprint to the line now began. Chisholm and Gibson had enough of a lead to remain in front moving them one step closer to Olympic qualification. If they qualify this will be the second Olympics for both of them. Gibson raced in the lightweight double in 2008 while Chisholm was in the lightweight four.
Australia crossed the line in first. Austria, Bulgaria and Spain crossed together. The crews sat there waiting for the official result…and waited. Finally it was announced that Austria and Bulgaria had finished in a dead heat for second. Unlucky Spain, in fourth, ended their Olympic chances.
Results: AUS, AUT, BUL, ESP, IRL, CZE
Olympic Qualification Places Available: 2