Olympic qualification wraps up for rowing
Last year on the waters of Lake Bled at the World Rowing Championships the quest to qualify for the 2012 London Olympic Games began.
The quest ended today when the final 12 spots were filled on the Rotsee regatta course at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland.
Temperatures remained cool with a very slight head-wind for these four remaining events – the men’s double sculls, men’s and women’s single sculls and lightweight men’s double sculls.
Men’s Double Sculls (M2x) – Final
Down to the last six crews, these 12 athletes needed a top two spot to get to the 2012 London Olympic Games and there was little doubt that Italy’s Alessio Sartori and Romano Battisti were the favourites. It is hard to look past Sartori, as an Olympic Champion from 2000 and a four-time Olympian, he knows what pressure is all about. Battisti and Sartori left the starting blocks clocking a speedy pace with Ukraine sticking super-tightly to the Italians. So tightly that going through the middle of the race Ukraine had the lead.
Dmytro Mikhay and Artem Morozov of Ukraine took an interesting road into this final. They were to slowest qualifiers from yesterday’s semifinal and thus were in the outside, unfavoured lane. Mikhay and Morozov only joined together earlier this year with Mikhay, 22, racing in 2010 at the under-23 level and Morozov racing with another doubles partner.
A word from bow man, Sartori saw a big piece through the third 500 and the Italians not only took back the lead, but they broke free of Mikhay and Morozov. Meanwhile, the young Azerbaijan duo of Aleksandar Aleksandrov and Boris Yotov tried to close the gap on the Ukrainians.
As the finishing grandstand came into view Italy remained clearly in the lead with a huge battle developing between Azerbaijan and Ukraine. Both boats rated in the high 30s, giving it their all. To a huge cheer from the Italian supporters, Sartori and Battisti crossed the line first, then Ukraine. Three athletes are going to their first Olympic Games. Disappointment for Azerbaijan as they miss out on the Olympics by less than half a second.
Olympic Qualifiers: ITA, UKR
Alessio Sartori (ITA)
“For me this is my 5th Olympics. I’m very happy to be going to London. We have worked very hard this year. This is like a dream come true.”
Dmytro Mikhay (UKR)
“It’s difficult to describe but it’s a really special feeling.”
Women’s Single Sculls (W1x) – Final
Of the six scullers lined up, four would get to go to the Olympic Games. In that knowledge Fie Udby Erichsen of Denmark shot out of the blocks. So did Australia’s Kim Crow. Erichsen and Crow, from the middle two lanes, then held their own battle at the head of the field and in the process left the rest of the field behind.
Erichsen, 27, has been plugging away on the international scene for over a decade swapping between various boats but seeing a lot of the pair and double. Two years ago Erichsen settled for the single and has been improving in this event ever since. The long-legged Crow made it into the double for the London Olympics but when her partner got injured Crow entered this event as a contingency plan.
Going through the 1250m mark Crow broke away from Erichsen and built up a small lead. Meanwhile a full-on battle was going on between Genevra Stone of the United States, Iva Obradovic of Serbia and Sanita Puspure of Ireland. With only two remaining spots all three of these boats would have to give it their all to the line. Stone’s sprint was awesome, so was Puspure’s. Obradovic had nothing left to give. Crow crossed the line easily in first, Erichsen was comfortable in second and Stone had third.
Puspure must have heard the support coming from her husband and two young children yelling ‘go mummy’. She crossed the line in fourth to become the sole Irish qualifier for the Olympic Games in rowing.
Olympic Qualifiers: AUS, DEN, USA, IRL
Kim Crow (AUS)
“I really didn’t know what to expect because everyone was racing for their lives. My aim was just to keep my bow-ball in front. I have been in the single for 4 weeks now while my double partner has been injured. It has been really good because it shows up every single fault. I expect the selectors will decide what is happening with us in the next few weeks.”
Fie Udby Erichsen (DEN)
“It was a very good feeling to stay with Kim Crow for quite a long time. It was a powerful feeling.”
Genevra Stone (USA)
“It’s awesome! It was tough but I was psyched. I didn’t look across the line, I didn’t really want to. I doubted myself. It’s been a tough campaign- 2 years in the single after not making it to the NZL team.”
Sanita Puspure (IRL)
“What a great feeling! I had my fan club of my husband and two children here to support me”.
Men’s Single Sculls (M1x) – Final
Four of these six scullers would qualify for the 2012 London Olympic Games. All eyes were on Tim Maeyens of Belgium who is a two-time Olympian but was unfortunate to miss out on qualifying at last year’s World Rowing Championships. In the centre lane, Maeyens got out with his signature fast start, with Michal Sloma of Poland holding on.
As Maeyens remained in the lead, Sloma was being challenged by Mario Vekic of Croatia. Vekic has spent a good proportion of his rowing career in the double including rowing at Beijing in that boat. After Beijing Vekic has stuck to the single and it looked to pay off today. Coming through the 1500m mark Vekic remained in second while Sloma battled with the slow starting lightweight World Champion, Henrik Stephansen of Denmark.
Sloma knew that Stephansen had a massive sprint and both of these scullers continued to power to the line. Maeyens, crossing in first, became the sole Olympic boat for his country at London. Vekic, in second, is off to his second Olympics. Sloma, in third, is off to his first Olympics along with Stephansen in fourth.
Olympic Qualifiers: BEL, CRO, POL, DEN
Tim Maeyens (BEL)
“I am very happy. I slept ok last night but I knew that I would do it. Even thought it was a tough race and the others were approaching I was so much focused on winning. My plans now are to take it easy and then get back training.”
Mario Vekic (CRO)
“Crossing the line I just thought ‘wow that’s the finish line’ and it was a very, very good feeling. I now want to have some days off to free my mind and then I will concentrate on London.”
Michal Sloma (POL)
“I am very happy as this will be my first Olympic Games. Last year we were 14th in the doubles and a few years before that 12th. For me, this is incredible.”
Henrik Stephansen (DEN)
“I am now 81kg in the morning and eating is not the same pleasure as it used to be because it is not forbidden. You can have what you want. It was pretty nice to beat the heavy weights-tough guys.”
Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x) – Final
For these 12 athletes racing today meant four days of unbridled pressure and hard racing. In just over six minutes time two of the crews would be celebrating a spot in the 2012 Olympic Games. Four crews got away remarkably quickly with Zsolt Hirling and Tamas Varga holding a small advantage. Australia, Austria and the United States followed extremely closely behind.
Hirling and Varga come into this race with quite the pedigree. They have raced at the past two Olympics in this event and also have a World Champion title. After ‘retiring’ following the Beijing Olympics the duo made a last-minute comeback decision. Today Hirling and Varga held from start to finish but not without pain. Both Australia and the United States remained within striking distance for the entire race.
The United States of Andrew Campbell and William Daly had a very slight edge, being in second for most of the race but with only about a canvas margin over Australia. The Australians, Roderick Chisholm and Thomas Gibson would have to really sprint if they wanted to go to the Olympics. Chisholm and Gibson both went to the Beijing Olympics but in different boats. They came together this year after rigorous selection trials. Today their experience and years of training paid off. Chisholm and Gibson performed a massive sprint, getting their stroke rate to 43 - enough to just ahead of Campbell and Daly and qualify London along with the very happy Hungarians.
Hirling and Varga become the sole Olympic boat for Hungary at the Olympic Games.
Olympic Qualifiers: HUN, AUS
Zsolt Hirling (HUN)
“At the beginning I felt really tired but then suddenly it just flew. We were really surprised about the result and about our performance. But at the same time it was truly a tough race.”
Thomas Gibson (AUS)
“We knew we had good boat speed but you never know who will turn up for the ‘race of death’. We began stepping form the 1000m mark and I saw they still had us at the 500m but we just put our heads down and started jamming it.”
See how the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Qualification Chart stands after the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta and view the regatta's full results here.