Heat, heart and soul in B-finals
Every four years, in the year before the Olympic Games, the b-finals at the World Rowing Championships become exceedingly crucial. The race becomes one for Olympic qualification spots. On the final day of racing at the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia, pure heart and soul was required to get as quickly as possible to the finish line.
Men’s Four (M4-) – B-final
In this six boat B-final, five boats would qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games and it took until the final 100m for this to be decided. New Zealand, who finished seventh in this event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, were the first to show and held a slight lead through the first half of the race. With 1000m gone, the Czech Republic, Canada and Serbia were up there with the New Zealanders.
Canada then took over in the lead as all six crews began to wind it up for the line. In a flurry of oars and high ratings, the line came into sight. Six boats crossed it. Serbia, in fifth, looked absolutely elated. The Czech Republic, watched in the grandstand by the great Vaclav Chalupa, was a broken boat. They had just missed out on qualifying and the crew could hardly move due to exhaustion.
At the head of the field Canada, New Zealand, Belarus and Italy had qualified for the 2012 Olympics along with Serbia.
Results: CAN, NZL, BLR, ITA, SRB, CZE
Derek O’Farrell (CAN)
“This feels absolutely amazing. I’m so happy. Just look at the guys , they gave everything. Great to win this & to qualify. It was a fantastic race, perfectly executed. ”
Chris Harris (NZL)
“We’ve only been together for a week and lost our bowmen right before the tournament. Today we have been trying different tactics, getting off hard. It worked, job done for qualification”
Fossi Francesco (ITA)
”It is amazing that we qualified for the Olympics. The race was awesome. I am very proud of my team-mates.”
Radoje Djeric (SRB)
“In my 20th year I have qualified for the Olympics. 5 years of training finally paid off. I believed we could do it before the race and we did it, so we all feel great.”
Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x) – B-final
Only two spots were available for 2012 Olympic qualification. At the start all crews were good enough to have a chance, but China must have wanted it the most. The young Chinese duo of Wenyi Huang, 20, and Feihong Pan, 22, are in their second year on the Chinese national team and they were executing a perfectly timed race. The Netherlands tried to hold the Chinese pace and looked to be in the remaining qualifying spot. Denmark, however, had different ideas.
Anne Lolk Thomsen and Juliane Rasmussen of Denmark were giving it their all into the finish line. The Dutch tried to hold on, but looked to have run out of steam. At the line China and Denmark had qualified for the Olympics. The Netherlands had missed out by a heartbreaking ¼ of a second.
Results: CHN, DEN, NED, ITA, GER, BEL
Juliane Rasmussen (DEN)
"We feel pretty well, but tired as well. We had great conditions for a fast race and now we are very happy that we qualified for the Olympics."
Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x) – B-final
For these crews the race was on to be in the top five of six boats. Greece’s Eleftherios Konsolas and Panagiotis Magdanis went out at a speedy pace followed most closely by Portugal and Canada. Through the middle of the race it then looked like Canada, Greece and France’s Jeremie Azou and Frederic Dufour had the best pace. But there was still another 1000m to row. Who had the best stamina in these hot, calm conditions?
The Norwegians (Ringstad and Strandli) then went for broke. Azou and Dufour followed suit. In the last 200m, when it’s all about keeping your head and your technique together, Azou and Dufour looked calm and collected and, at a 42 stroke rate, well in control. France crossed the line in first.
Results: FRA, GRE, NOR, POR, CAN, POL
Jeremie Azou (FRA)
"We are very happy that we won this race. For the last 500 meters we have maintained our tempo and kept the first position. In my opinion all boats should race at the Olympics."
Panagiotis Magdanis (GRE)
"Our result is very satisfying. We are happy to go to the Olympics. Right after the first race we knew we were strong enough to succeed – to qualify."
Svein Urban Ringstad (NOR)
"It feels awesome to qualify for the Olympics. It was a very tough race today, we were all pretty close all the time. At some point, during the race, we thought, we would win, but we are satisfied with this result, as well."
Pedro Fraga (POR)
"We did all we can today, but we still need to improve our result in order to take best positions at the qualifications. But we are very happy anyway."
Cameron Sylvester (CAN)
"Today was not our best performance, but we are already looking forward to racing at the Olympics, where our goal is to win. So we have a lot ahead of us."
Women’s Single Sculls (W1x) – B-final
This event was all about being in the top three to get the vital Olympic qualification. Leading from start to finish, Azerbaijan’s Nataliya Mustafayeva was all class and managed to build up enough of a lead that she did not need to sprint the finish. Ever since Mustafayeva moved from Ukraine to Azerbaijan she has been showing great form and will be one to watch at next year’s Olympic Games.
Rowing stalwart, Julie Levina of Russia came through from third to take second. Levina is a veteran of three Olympic Games, all in the quad, but she is yet to medal at the Olympic level. A big finishing push by Donata Vistartaite of Lithuania gave her the remaining qualifying spot.
Results: AZE, RUS, LTU, GBR, USA, EST
Nataliya Mustafayeva (AZE)
"I cannot really speak right now, because I am extremely exhausted. I am glad my dreams came true today. We have worked really hard all the season and we were focusing only on this race, so we are very happy."
Julia Levina (RUS)
"I am very happy to qualify for the Olympics. It was a good race and I am glad I was able to control the situation throughout the entire race."
Donata Vistartaite (LTU)
"It was a tough race, a really hard one. The weather conditions did not suit me very well, because I prefer windy weather, but I am satisfied with the result."
LTA Mixed Coxed Four (LTAMix4+) – B-final
Racing over 1000m, the goal here was to finish in the top two spots to guarantee a place for their country at the 2012 Paralympic Games. China got off to a stunning start and settled into a 34 stroke rate, out-rating the other boats in the field. Ukraine followed closely behind and together China and Ukraine moved clear away from the rest of the field.
The Chinese crew came together just four months ago and the crew have raced between one and two years. They showed remarkable maturity today in holding off Ukraine and earning a spot in the Paralympic Games. Ukraine, in second, also qualified for 2012. The 2008 Paralympic Champions, Italy, could only manage fourth and will have to try to qualify in the last chance regatta next year.
Results: CHN, UKR, BRA, ITA, RUS, POL
Yu LI (CHN)
“The race was great. We hope to row that well at the Paralympics in London. It was a tough race today. ”
“Very very very good. This was the last race for the Ukraine and our last chance to shine, that is why we had to concentrate. We are all very happy.”