Friday's semifinals at World Rowing Championships
“Finish in the top three”. That would have been the instruction of coaches as these crews took to the water of the Tangeum International Rowing Regatta course for today’s semifinals.
Day six at the 2013 World Rowing Championships in Chungju, Korea treated rowers to flat water conditions with a very slight head wind. Temperatures reached into the high twenties with the sun shining through patchy clouds.
Men’s Double Sculls (M2x) – Semifinals
On Monday in the heats Norway recorded the fastest qualifying time. Nils Jakob Hoff and Kjetil Borch of Norway finished seventh last year at the Olympics and they were determined to come back stronger in 2013. Hoff and Borch are one of the few remaining London line-ups. Today they raced in the middle lane of Semifinal One. Right from the start Hoff and Borch knew where they wanted to be and they led the way with an aggressive opening first 500.
Germany’s Eric Knittel and Stephan Krueger also rowed together at the London Olympics and by the middle of the race they had found the second spot, but not by much. Argentina (Cristian Rosso and Ariel Suarez) had to qualify for this race through the repechage, and they were challenging the Germans with every stroke. The German – Argentinan battle continued through to the last 500m when Knittel and Krueger’s finishing power must have been just that much stronger. The finishing order did not change with the eye-catching Norwegeans finishing first and recording the fastest qualifying time. Germany took second and Argentina were third.
NOR, Nils Jacob Hoff, Kjetil Borch, “It wasn’t an optimal race for us but it was good enough to get us through in a commanding position. We felt confident as we’ve improved a lot since Lucerne and we rowed again in our old boat that was sent to Korea before Lucerne. We felt better in this boat.”
ARG Ariel Suarez, “This was a difficult race for us because coming into these World Championships my partner had an injury so we didn’t train together for almost two months. In Lucerne we raced only after being together for two weeks in the boat. We started this race with confidence and we knew that we were good enough to make it to the final.”
Semifinal Two featured Lithuania in the lead. Rolandas Mascinskas and Saulius Ritter of Lithuania have spent the season working out the best two of three scullers to go in the double and this duo has really gelled throughout this regatta. Coming back from a rather sedate start, World Cup series winners, New Zealand (Michael Arms and Robert Manson) pushed into second. Meanwhile, from the back of the field Italy’s Francesco Fossi and Romano Battisti were slowly working their way into a qualifying position.
The order then stayed the same until the end with Lithuania remaining in the lead, New Zealand holding on to second despite a strong closing sprint by Italy.
Qualifiers: NOR, GER, ARG, LTU, NZL, ITA
ITA Francesco Fossi, “After five strokes we caught a small crab, lost the rhythm and fell behind. But we stayed mentally strong and we got the result we needed.”
LTU Saulius Ritter, “It was a tight race for the first 1000m. We tried to maintain our rhythm and we’re happy about the whole race. In the final it will be another day, another race and we will try to find some extra speed.”
Women’s Double Sculls (W2x) – Semifinals
Lithuania only has a handful of elite rowers but they are becoming very well-known especially in the men’s and women’s double sculls. In Semifinal One Donata Vistartaite and Milda Valciukaite of Lithuania got off the line the fastest with Belarus pushing through to take second. The Belarus boat includes Olympic and World Champion in the single, Ekaterina Karsten and along with Yuliya Bichyk they have been improving as the season has progressed.
Going through the middle of the race Karsten and Bichyk had slotted into second. From the heats Belarus had recorded the fastest qualifying time, but margins over the field had been tight. Then coming through to the final sprint New Zealand, who had been sitting in third, did a push that propelled them into second. Karsten and Bichyk did not react. Lithuania had qualified from first with the fastest time of the two semis, New Zealand’s Fiona Bourke and Zoe Stevenson took second and Belarus held on to third.
LTU, Donata Vistartaite, “It was a nice race but not an easy one. The conditions here in Chungju are tough with this heat and humidity but the race course is really, really nice.”
Frances Houghton and Victoria Meyer-Laker of Great Britain came together at the start of the season and they raced at the head of the field in Semifinal Two. The duo has been improving throughout this season and in the heats earlier this week they had finished first. Houghton comes to this event with the experience of three Olympic Games behind her.
By the middle of the race Houghton and Meyer-Laker had the leading edge with Julia Lier and Mareike Adams of Germany challenging hard. The German’s were not letting go of Great Britain and these two crews moved away from the pack. Coming into the final sprint Great Britain and Germany were relatively comfortable in the top two spots with Denmark under no pressure in their third place position.
Qualifiers: LTU, NZL, BLR, GBR, GER, DEN
GBR Frances Houghton and Victoria Meyer-Laker, “We wanted to race with no expectations and we wanted to keep our cool. What was different from the first two races here was the head wind, but we dealt with it very well.”
DEN Mette Petersen and Lisbet Jakobsen, “We are a new crew so it’s great to be in the final. It’s our second major step – first making the semifinal and we proved to ourselves that we are fast enough. Our third step will be giving it our best in the final.”
Lightweight Men’s Four (LM4-) – Semifinals
Semifinal One got the French supporters going as their crew fought to get into a qualifying spot. The French, however, had their work cut out for them as Denmark, Italy and the United States had other ideas. Coming out of the starting blocks Denmark had the lead. Winther, Barsoe and Joergensen were in the boat that won bronze at the London Olympics with Larsen the new addition since the retirement of Eskild Ebbesen.
With half the race gone five boats were all very much on the pace with less than three seconds separating them. Only the Czech Republic had dropped back. The margins remained tight as the final 500m came into view. Denmark remained in front keeping their rating at 38 strokes per minute – lower than they’ve had to do in past races.
France, meanwhile, had pushed into second with the United States and Italy fighting desperately for a qualifying spot. Usually Italy, who won their heat earlier in the week, has an awesome sprint, but today they didn’t seem to be able to muster it. At the line Italy had missed out. Denmark, France and the United States had qualified for the final.
Semifinal Two had London Olympic gold and silver medallists racing with 2013 World Cup series winners, New Zealand sandwiched in the middle. New Zealand has not lost a race all season and they led the fleet out of the starting blocks. By the middle of the race New Zealand and Great Britain had managed to inch away from the rest of the field. Great Britain finished out of the medals at the World Rowing Cup in Lucerne. Today they looked like a new, refreshed crew.
Coming through to the last 500m New Zealand looked like they didn’t really know what to do. Perhaps they were not used to having a boat right beside them. Rating 41, New Zealand were being overtaken by Great Britain rating 38. Meanwhile the Dutch and South Africa were desperately trying to get into that third qualifying spot. The Dutch were at 46 for a few strokes but it was not enough to catch the South Africans. Great Britain was first, a rather discombobulated New Zealand had held on to a close second and a very happy South Africa had made the final by finishing third.
Qualifiers: DEN, FRA, USA, GBR, NZL, RSA
RSA James Thompson, “I was ill just before our heat, but now I have recovered and every day myself and the whole crew feel better. We’re happy with our performance and making the final. We’re taking one day at a time.”
Men’s Single Sculls (M1x) – Semifinals
It looks like Germany’s Marcel Hacker has found some new power. Hacker medalled in this event back at the Sydney 2000 Olympics and then went on to become the World Champion in 2002. He hasn’t seen a World Championship title since. Will this be Hacker’s World Championships?
By the middle of Semifinal One the German had opened up a handy lead with Roel Braas of the Netherlands and Angel Fournier Rodriguez of Cuba battling it out, stroke for stroke for the second place. This battle did not seem to impact on Hacker’s lead and in the final sprint Hacker chose to drop his stroke rate down. Braas and Fournier both sprinted with Fournier’s 36 stroke rate pace giving him the second place spot. Braas, the 2013 Holland Beker winner, qualified from third.
GER Marcel Hacker, “Now that I have acclimatised to these conditions I’m getting better day by day. It’s been a long time since I have been in a medal winning position at the world champs. We had really good conditions on the water and I congratulate FISA for having stationary umpires.”
Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic came into the single in 2005 and ever since then he has been a regular medallists. The only thing that has kept him from winning more World Champion titles has been New Zealand’s Mahe Drysdale. Today Synek showed his form in Semifinal Two, getting out in the lead at the start and doing just enough to hold off Olympic bronze medallist, Alan Campbell of Great Britain. Also very much on the pace of these two front runners was Mindaugas Griskonis of Lithuania. Griskonis was eighth at the Olympic Games in 2012 and 2008. He is Lithuania’s regular single sculler.
In the final 500m Synek showed that he wanted to be the first to cross the line and holding a 35 stroke rate he kept the pressure on. Campbell also held on with a 37 stroke rate with Griskonis looking satisfied just to remain in third. These are the qualifying boats.
It is worth noting, back in fourth London Olympic finalist, Aleksandar Aleksandrov of Azerbaijan had completely run out of steam. Aleksandrov had raced and beaten Olympic Champion Drysdale in yesterday’s quarterfinal and it must have really taken its toll.
Qualifiers: GER, CUB, NED, CZE, GBR, LTU
CZE Ondrej Synek, “It was a good race which I controlled from the start. It was important to get ahead and go to the final as I want to fight for the medals. The semifinal race is always the worst one for me but at the finish (of the race) I saved some power for the final.”
GBR Alan Campbell, “It was a good, tough race. It feels good and I’m happy that I beat Aleksandar (Aleksandrov) who beat me at Henley (Royal Regatta). I think all six of us (in the final) are capable of getting medals. I wish all of them good luck, but I wish a little more luck for myself.”
Women’s Single Sculls (W1x) – Semifinals
Is there no stopping Kim Crow of Australia? Coming to this race unbeaten all season, Crow led Semifinal One from start to finish. Crow is Australia’s top performing rower at present and the law student takes it all in her stride. Behind Crow, Emma Twigg of New Zealand remained solidly tucked into second with Eleanor Logan of the United States sitting in third but surprisingly well off the leaders pace.
Logan is an Olympic Champion from the women’s eight and has made quite a smooth transition to single sculling this year.
The order remained the same to the line with Crow recording the fastest qualifying time of the two semifinals. Twigg qualified from second and Logan was in third.
AUS Kim Crow, “I controlled the race from the start. In semifinals you always want to aim to get the middle lane for the finals so I stayed with that race plan and I’m in good shape for the final race. I’m looking forward to it.”
The young exuberance of Magdalena Lobnig of Austria should not be underestimated. Lobnig, who is the 2012 under-23 champion from the double, had the lead at the start of Semifinal Two and it took Olympic Champion Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic until the middle of the race to get in front of the Austrian. Lobnig then found herself under threat from Inge Janssen of the Netherlands. Janssen was having a great second 1,000 and was closing rapidly on Lobnig. Knapkova was now well out in front with Lobnig doing her best to stay ahead of Janssen. It worked. The finishing order was Knapkova, Lobnig and then Janssen.
Qualifiers: AUS, NZL, USA, CZE, AUT, NED
AUT Magdalena Lobnig, “This is amazing for me as it’s my first year at the senior level and also the first final in the single in my career. It’s cool for me to make the final. Knapkova was a bit faster today so I was satisfied to hold second. Anything that comes in the final race will be a nice present for me.”