London here we come
The Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland today named 18 boats for the 2012 London Olympic Games. Late afternoon finals on the Rotsee regatta course had 10 Olympic events race. For most of these races the top two would qualify but for two events, the women’s quadruple sculls and the men’s eight, just one boat would make it to the Olympics.
In cool and calm conditions the reason for calling this qualification regatta, the ‘regatta of death’ was clearly felt. Some crews rowed away from the finish line with shattered dreams, other crews celebrated like they had just won an Olympic medal.
Women’s Pair (W2-) – Final
About seven minutes from the start time four athletes would be off to the London Olympic Games. Seven minutes until eight athletes would be out of the running. Leading the way was Kerstin Hartmann and Marlene Sinnig of Germany. Hartmann and Sinning were bitterly disappointed last year when they finished two positions outside of qualifying for London. They have been rowing together as the top German pair since 2009 and have been regular A-finalists at the international level.
Today Hartmann and Sinnig started out how they intended to finish – as pace setters. Behind Germany, Maria Laura Abalo and Gabriela Best of Argentina held on to second. Best is an Olympian in the single but chose to try and qualify in the pair after joining up with Abalo last year and realising how good the boat felt. Abalo and Best clung on tightly to the leading Germans, keeping a wary eye on Croatia who sat in third. As the finish line approached Sinnig and Hartmann looked like they were loving the race with Abalo and Best fighting to hold off Croatia. At the line Germany and Argentina had booked a spot at the London Olympic Games.
Finishing in fifth place, medallists in this event at the 2008 Olympics, Yuliya Bichyk and Natallia Helakh of Belarus will not be in London.
Qualifiers: GER, ARG
Maria Laura Abalo (ARG)
“I have no idea what just happened! It was a great race. The pair is not a boat we usually race, but went for it and here we are!”
Men’s Pair (M2-) – Final
The only important places in this final were first and second. Coming third meant the end to 2012 Olympic dreams. Germain Chardin and Dorian Mortelette of France certainly knew this. They bolted out of the starting blocks using all of the skills they had learned from being 2008 Olympic medallists. Mortelette and Chardin were in the bronze medal men’s four in Beijing, but a below-par World Rowing Championships last year meant that they did not qualify the four for London.
Behind the French leaders Spain, Poland and South Africa held an incredibly tight battle. There is no doubt that they were all going to do everything possible to get into a qualifying spot. Going though the middle of the race Wojciech Gutorski and Jaroslaw Godek of Poland had just a bow-ball lead over Spain and were starting to pull away. Gutorski and Godek are part of Poland’s strong men’s sweep squad and both are 2008 Olympians but from different boats.
The final sprint had Chardin and Mortelette still in front on a 37 stroke rate and looking relatively comfortable. Gutorski and Godek were leaving nothing to chance and had moved up a gear for a full-on sprint. Spain tried desperately to hold it all together, but the three days of racing had taken their toll. France and Poland are on their way to the Olympic Games.
Qualifiers: FRA, POL
Germain Chardin (FRA)
“It’s been quiet a project to qualify for the pair. It was a really hard race. We were under a lot of pressure. It wasn’t a smooth race but we are the winners.”
Jaroslaw Godek (POL)
“We are really happy that we made the team and we want to prove that we have what it takes for the Olympic Games”
Women’s Double Sculls (W2x) – Final
It was a top two finish that would be needed for a spot in the London Olympics. Last year Sarah Trowbridge of the United States missed out on qualifying in this event by just one position. Now teamed up with 2008 Olympian Margot Shumway the duo took the lead at the start with Inge Janssen and Elisabeth Hogerwerf of the Netherlands holding on to second.
The smooth, long strokes of Trowbridge and Shumway enabled them to build up a bit of a buffer over Janssen and Hogerwerf, with Italy and Spain still very much on the pace. The young duo of Janssen and Hogerwerf have just come out of under-23 rowing and this is their first season together.
Coming through to the line the United States remained in the lead with the Netherlands managing to get a small margin of a lead over Spain and Italy. In the final sprint Janssen and Hogerwerf sprinted at a 35 stroke rate and secured one Olympic spot. Shumway and Trowbridge remained in first as the other Olympic qualifying position.
Qualifiers: USA, NED
Margot Shumway (USA)
“This is the result we wanted and I am really really proud we did it. We stepped outside ourselves. Now it’s time to go back to the US to do some more work.”
Inge Janssen (NED)
“I still don’t realize it yet, I still feel dizzy in my head. This is my first year in the international scene and I was hoping to get some experiences with the crew.”
Men’s Four (M4-) – Final
Two boats in this event would earn spots in the 2012 London Olympic Games. Before the race began France and the Czech Republic looked like the favourites. France secured World Champion status in this event in 2010 but missed out on qualification last year. The Czech Republic was just one place off qualifying in 2011 and were back to set the record straight.
At the start Michal Horvath, Jakub Podrazil, Milan Bruncvik and Matyas Klang of the Czech Republic shot out of the blocks followed by Romania. By the half-way point the Czechs and Romania had all but secured the two qualifying spots. What would France do? As the Czech Republic and Romania turned the race into a procession, France tried desperately to close the gap.
Coming into the last 300m the Czechs were holding on to the lead using a 38 stroke rate pace. Romania, on 36, looked strong and powerful. France, rating 38, were giving it their all – but it was too late. A shattered Czech Republic were too tired to celebrate. Romania, however, were over the moon, their whoops of joy could be heard down the course.
Qualifiers: CZE, ROU
Florin Curuea (ROU)
“It’s a great feeling. It’s been my dream since I started rowing in 1996. I had a six years gap (from rowing) and I started training again in November. We have a young team in Romania, 19/20 years old. My dream is for what I work.”
Milan Bruncvik (CZE)
“It’s such a great feeling. We had a hard selection process. The crew was picked from a group of 12 guys but as you can see it paid off. For me... to go to London…I can’t find the words to describe it. I am looking forward to it and I will do my best.”
Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x) – Final
Two of the crews who lines up at the start would get to go to the 2012 London Olympics. Four athletes would be extremely happy in about seven minutes time. On the calm, evening waters of the Rotsee, Germany’s Lena Mueller and Anja Noske showed the rest of the crews how it should be done. There was no denying the beautiful synchronicity of Mueller and Noske, and by the first 500m the duo had nearly a boat length over Rianne Sigmond and Maaike Head of the Netherlands. Sigmond and Maaike missed out on qualifying for the Olympics last year by just one position and they had looked solid coming into this final.
Germany and the Netherlands looked to have secured the two qualifying positions as the field went through the half-way point. But then Erika Bello and Laura Milani of Italy began to move. In an awesome sprint for the finish, Bello and Milani frantically tried to close the gap with a 41 stroke rate. But their high rating did not have the same push as the leading crews. Germany and the Netherlands are on their way to the Olympic Games.
Qualifiers: GER, NED
Lena Müller (GER)
“It’s like a dream I had three nights ago. I woke up thinking we did it and now it has happened.”
Rianne Sigmond (NED)
“It’s like a dream. I just can’t believe it. I keep having say to myself that I’m going to London.”
Lightweight Men’s Four (LM4-) – Final
Two crews would be elated at the end of this race. Four crews would be absolutely disappointed. Serbia, who just missed out on qualifying last year at the World Rowing Championships, went out hard at the start to get the lead. But their lead was miniscule with the Netherlands, the United States, New Zealand and Spain all overlapping and very much on the pace.
Going through the middle of the race Serbia still had a slight edge, but only slight. This was turning into the race of the day in terms of closeness. But then the United States broke away with a huge push at the 1200m mark. Anthony Fahden and Robin Prendes of the United States had been in this boat when they tried to qualify at last year’s World Rowing Championships. They didn’t make it by two spots. Joined this year by Nick La Cava and William Newell their third 500m piece turned out to be devastating. The United States now had the lead with Serbia, New Zealand and the Dutch all chasing hard.
Four boats gave it their all to the line. The United States, at 39, held on to first. The Netherlands who had a sub-par World Rowing Championships last year for medical reasons, were at 41 and being chased hard by New Zealand on 40. The United States and the Netherlands had done it. They are off to the Olympic Games and on the medals podium celebrations had already begun. Champagne could be heard popping and there was much talk about what these lightweight rowers would be eating tonight.
Qualifiers: USA, NED
William Newell (USA)
“We didn’t qualify last year. This year it all came together. It was our day today. I’ve always admired heroes of sports since I was at college.”
Vincent Muda (NED)
“Since I was eleven years old I started rowing. My coach said what is your goal and I really wanted to go to the Olympics. I feel really relieved. It’s been really tense in the last days. All the teams had been training really hard. Everyone has been very nervous. Every competitor is very strong.”
Women’s Quadruple Sculls (W4x) – Final
Only the first crew to cross the finish line would qualify in this event. Of the five boats lined up, Poland had been the best when they competed in the ‘race for lanes’ a couple of days ago. Today Poland absolutely dominated. Kamila Socko, Joanna Leszczynska, Sylwia Lewandowska and Natalia Madaj of Poland had already built up an open water lead going through the middle of the race.
Last year at the World Rowing Championships Poland, with Madaj and Leszczynska in the boat, had finished just one position outside of qualifying for the London Olympics. Today they were making no mistakes. As the race continued Poland increased their lead. Romania, in second, had no reply. Poland earn a spot in the 2012 Olympic Games.
Kamila Socko (POL)
“We are so happy. We have worked very hard for our ten year carreer in rowing. This is my first Olympics and our dream is now to make the Olympic final.”
Men’s Quadruple Sculls (M4x) – Final
At the end of this race two boats would be on their way to the London Olympic Games. Estonia looked to be the favourites. They finished third earlier this month at the Samsung World Rowing Cup I in Belgrade, beating a number of already qualified boats. The boat was also packed full of experience made up of Andrei Jamsa, Allar Raja, Tonu Endrekson and Kaspar Taimsoo. They are all Olympians from the Beijing Olympics with Endrekson a silver medallist from this regatta.
The Estonians jumped out to an early lead with France and Slovenia holding their pace. By the half-way point Slovenia had found the speed too much and dropped back into fourth, with only France able to keep up with the pace of the Estonians. As the crews approached the finishing line Estonia still looked to be the leaders with a 36 stroke rate pace with France, on 41, feeling the threat being doled out by a flying Czech Republic on 39 strokes per minute.
At the line it was clear that Estonia had finished first. It was totally unclear who had come second. The photo finish awarded the second spot and an Olympic berth to France.
Qualifiers: EST, FRA
Pierre-Jean Peltier (FRA)
“It was pretty close. It was the same as before. We were third and we thought we were forth yesterday in the rep. Today I was pretty sure we were third but then in the end we qualified. The plan for London is not going to go the next World Cup so we can concentrate on our training to get better so we can go to London and achieve big things.”
Allar Raja (EST)
“We worked really hard. Our main goal was to qualify. We are very tired but it feels good.”
Women’s Eight (W8+) – Final
At the end of this race two boats would earn spots at the 2012 London Olympic Games. The crews had had a trial run a couple of days ago in the race for lanes and Australia had proved to be the fastest on that day. Today they lined up again with Belarus shooting out to an early lead. Sitting in the Belarusian boat were Yuliya Bichyk and Natallia Helakh who had raced just an hour earlier in the women’s pair. By the time Belarus reached the half-way mark they had already been overtaken by Australia.
Now in the lead the Australians really got into their rhythm and were able to move away from Belarus. Meanwhile, Germany and Ukraine were neck-and-neck for third with nothing between them. Ukraine then began to slip back with Germany now aiming to get the better of Belarus. As Australia held onto a boat length lead, Germany, rating 38, and Belarus, rating 42, gave it their all to the line. Germany got there first by less than half a second. Australia and Germany are on their way to the Olympic Games.
Germany qualifying in the women’s eight meant that they become the only country to qualify a boat in every event at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Qualifiers: AUS, GER
Phoebe Stanley (AUS)
“This is pretty amazing. I thought my Olympic dream was over two months ago. Until now our lives didn’t exist past 6.03 on 22 may but now we are so excited.”
Laura Schwensen (GER)
“It was a great race, we just pushed the right buttons in the right moment. I’m really proud of the girls.”
Men’s Eight (M8+) – Final
Just one boat would make it to the Olympics from this event and from the race for lanes two days ago it looked like the United States would have the edge. The United States were devastated last year when they failed to qualify in this event. Over the years the men’s eight has become their flagship boat and they have only ever missed one Olympic Games – 1912. They also have won the most gold medals in the eight out of any country – 12 of them.
Today, the United States jumped out at the start and had a full boat length lead by the half-way point. Behind them New Zealand tried their best to hold on with France well off the pace at the back of the field. The United States brought their boat home in what looked like a relatively comfortable style making coach, Mike Teti proud.
William Miller (USA)
“It was a good hard race. A lot of credit to the other crews; New Zealand were there all the way! We are excited about London now. This (regatta) has been our focus until now, but now it is time to look to what’s ahead”