Picture perfect start to the rowing at Rio 2016
The Rio 2016 Olympic rowing regatta was a picture perfect for day one at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. Flat water glistened under the iconic-shaped hills that surround Rio's landscape. This day of heats opened with the men's single sculls that saw Olympic Champion, Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand recording the fastest time. Water conditions then got rougher as the morning progressed with the middle of the race sorting out those rowers who were more used to tricky conditions. Racing, however, continued as conditions proved to be consistent across all lanes.
Men's Single Sculls (M1x) - Heats
Along with the women's single sculls, the men's single has the most entries and they were divided into six heats. In the draw two days ago the top scullers were seeded through the heats and in Heat One Cuba's Angel Fournier Rodriguez was the seeded sculler. The challenge here was to be in a top three position for advancement to the quarterfinals. Fournier is the hope of Cuban rowing with a World Championship medal, World Cup medals and as a regular in the A-finals. He got away the quickest with Juan Carlos Cabrera of Mexico chasing hard. Coming through to the finish Fournier remained in front with Cabrera coming through in second and India's sole rower Dattu Bhokanal in third.
The reigning Olympic Champion, Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand got away quickly in Heat Two and never looked back. The 37-year-old is heading for the record books at this Olympic Games as he aims to join an elite group of scullers with two Olympic titles in the single. Rating an impressive 33 through the body of the 2000m race, Drysdale was pure style with Hungary's Bendeguz Petervari-Molnar following in second and Jhonatan Esquivel of Uruguay very close in third.
Hannes Obreno of Belgium qualified at the last chance qualification regatta in May this year. He then caused a stir by beating Drysdale at the Henley Royal Regatta. Today Obreno got away quickly in Heat Three and reached the first 500m mark in the lead. Argentina's Brian Rosso was in second with Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk of Poland in third. For all of three of these athletes, Rio is their Olympic rowing debut. The former junior World Champion, Wegrzycki-Szymczyk then pushed into second using a 34 stroke rate as Obreno held 33 to stay in the lead. Looking rather comfortable, Obreno led the way into the finish ahead of a spread-out procession behind him.
Heat Four saw Great Britain's Alan Campbell shoot away quickly. Campbell took bronze at the London Olympics. He has scored very inconsistent results since, but with a Brazilian wife, Campbell may have found a special element to help him in Rio. By the middle of the race Campbell had a very handy leading margin over Stanislau Shcharbachenia and Memo Memo of Indonesia who had the fastest start. Campbell, rating 30, was now in his comfort zone, with a final push to the line, the order of the top three did not change.
Reigning World Champion Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic featured in Heat Five. Synek has won every World Championship title in this last three years and with Olympic silver in the single, Synek is the favourite to threaten Drysdale for the 2016 gold. Synek soon found his pace and the lead, understroking his competition to be in the lead. As the water started to get a bit choppy through the middle of the race, Synek showed his rowing pedigree by moving further out in front. Following in second was Arturo Rivarola Trappe of Paraguay and Rhys Grant of Australia in third. A late surge by Grant earned him second, but the top three qualifiers remained unchanged.
The sixth and final Heat featured the up-and-coming Damir Martin of Croatia. Coming out of the Olympic medalling men's quadruple sculls, Martin has been establishing himself as a single sculler over the last two seasons. Martin soon took the lead, looking powerful at a 31 stroke rate. Then Norway's Nils Jakob Hoff pushed into the lead. Hoff is the 2013 World Champion in the men's double sculls, but for these Olympics he was replaced in the double by Olympic Champion single sculler, Olaf Tufte. Hoff, however, was making the best of his new boat class and he remained in the lead through to the finish.
Qualifiers: CUB, MEX, IND, NZL, HUN, URU, BEL, POL, ARG, GBR, BLR, INA, CZE, AUS, PAR, NOR, CRO, EGY
Women's Single Sculls (W1x) - Heats
The top three boats in each of these six heats would get to go directly to the quarterfinals, while all other scullers would get a second chance to advance through the repechage. In Heat One the reigning World Champion, Kimberley Brennan of Australia got away quickly. But then a very gutsy push by Mexico's Kenia Lechuga Alanis gave her the lead. Despite catching a crab in the rougher water, Lechuga Alanis remained in front. This was a phenomenal turn of events as Brennan has been leading all of her races from start to finish over this season and the 2015 season. With 500m left to row Lechuga remained in the lead as Micheen Thornycroft of Zimbabwe moved into second. What was happening to Brennan (now back in fourth)? Luchuga crossed the line with a huge margin - and the fastest overall qualifying time - with Thornycroft taking second and Brennan clawing her way out of the repechage in into third.
At her second Olympic Games, Genevra Stone of the United States has high hopes. She finished fourth at the 2015 World Rowing Championships and lined up today as the seeded crew in Heat Two. But it was 2012 Olympic medallist, Fie Udby Erichsen of Denmark who took an early lead. Stone then found her pace and moved through the first 500m mark in the lead. Although the rough water knocked around Stone, she remained ahead of Erichsen with Argentina and Iran's Mahsa Javar level-pegging in third. Stone only just held first after a huge sprint by Erichsen. Lina Salte of Lithuania came through in third.
Heat Three had the fastest starting pace being recorded by Sanita Puspure of Ireland. Puspure raced at the London Olympics and is back again with her biggest competition in this heat coming from first-time Olympian, Carling Zeeman of Canada. Zeeman then pushed into the lead rating 29 to stay in this position. Through the rough middle section of the race, Zeeman stayed in control as Puspure followed in second with Egypt's Nadia Negm in third. Zeeman then left the field standing and crossed the line in first with a gaping hole back to Puspure and Negm.
Jeanine Gmelin of Switzerland handled the conditions well in Heat Four and managed to hold off 2015 World Championship medallist Jingli Duan of China through the 1000m mark. Singapore's Saiydah Mohamed Rafa'ee followed in third. Then Duan did a push and earned the lead. With that Duan showed her rowing prowess to move into the lead. Gmelin held on to second and Mohamed Rafa'ee was third.
At this year's European Rowing Championships, Austria's Mgdalena Lobnig handled the rough water fabulously to win. She must have smiled when she saw today's racing conditions as she led the way in Heat Five. Nigeria's Chierika Ukogu followed in second with the Olympic Champion, Mirka Topinkova Knapkova back in third. The Ukogu successfully challenged for the lead. Ukogu is at her first Olympic Games and is the first Nigerian woman to compete in Olympic rowing. Ukogu remaed in the lead coming into the final sprint as Knapkova pushed up into second. Ukogu then began to tire and Lobnig regained the lead with Knapkova also getting in front of Ukogu.
The 44-year-old Ekaerina Karsten of Belarus had the fastest start in Heat Six. Karsten is at her seventh Olympics and still going strong. But it was New Zealand's Emma Twigg that got first to the 500m mark. Twigg is the 2014 World Champion and at the London Olympics she finished fourth. Twigg took 2015 off from rowing and is back with boat speed. Rating 29, Twigg led the way. Gabriela Mosqueira of Paraguay was in second with Bermuda's Michelle Pearson in third. At the line Twigg had a very handy margin with Karsten doing a big sprint to finish second over Parson of Bermuda.
Qualifiers: MEX, ZIM, AUS, USA, DEN, LTU, CAN, IRL, EGY, CHN, SUI, SIN, AUT, NGR, CZE, NZL, BLR, BER
Men's Pair (M2-) - Heats
The three heats in the men's pair required rowers to finish in a top three position for a direct path to the semifinals. In Heat One South Africa's Lawrence Brittain and Shaun Keeling got away quickly, before Spence Turrin and Alexander Lloyd of Australia took over in front. The rough conditions caused some steering problems and also meant that crews chose a lower stroke rate to stay in control. The Czech Republic followed in third with the United States challenging them for third. In the close of the race Australia rated 36 to try and hold the lead as South Africa went to 42 to hold off a late charge by Jakub Porazil and Lukas Helesic of the Czech Republic.
The Netherlands had a very quick start in Heat Two. Roel Braas and Mitchel Steenman of the Netherlands have regularly been in the A-final recently. The 2012 Olympic medallists, Germain Chardin and Dorian Mortelette of France, then showed that they wanted it the most and they got out to a rather comfortable lead, holding it through the rough water. The French crossed the line in first followed by Great Britain's Alan Sinclair and Stewart Innes with Romania in third.
Heat Three began with a false start on the first stroke. The boats realigned and got away cleanly with lane three featuring the unbeaten-since-2009, World and Olympic Champions, Eric Murray and Hamish Bond of New Zealand. But it was Italy's new combination of Giovanni Abagnale and Marco Di Costanzo of Italy that led at the start. Murray and Bond, rating 37, then got into the lead. The New Zealand duo have the experience to know that they can wear their opponents down, so they are never concerned to be behind at the start. Then disaster happened. Serbia's Milos Vasic and Nenad Bedak caught a very bad stroke and flipped over. This left three boats to qualify. Bond and Murray crossed first, Italy in second and Hungary in third. Could Serbia get back in their boat to row to the finish line? They were not able to but a ruling by the FISA executive committee enabled them to continue and go to the repechage.
Qualifiers: AUS, RSA, CZE, FRA, GBR, ROU, NZL, ITA, HUN
Women's Double Sculls (W2x) - Heats
This boat class had three heats with the top three boats in each heat going directly to the semifinals. The reigning Olympic Champion, Katherine Grainger and new partner Victoria Thornley of Great Britain had a very aggressive start to take the lead. This duo have had a rough lead up to the Olympics as at one point they wanted to get out if this boat and instead trialled for their country's eight. Today they led 2013 World Champions, Lithuania (Donata Vistartaite and Milda Valciukaite). Then Lithuania took the lead with Great Britain holding on. In a close finish, Vistartaite and Valciukaite held the lead to finish in 7:04 - the fastest qualifying time.
Heat Two had the gold medallists from the final World Rowing Cup of 2016, Magdalena Fularczyk and Natalia Madaj of Poland in the lead at the start. Madaj and Fularczyk are the Polish medal hopes in rowing at these Olympic Games and they made a very good start to this goal. Following in second was Ellen Tomek and Meghan O'Leary of the United States with Belarus in third. Yuliya Bichyk and Tatsiana Kukhta of Belarus then pushed into second. China then picked up the pace with Yang Lyu and Weiwei Zhu getting into second. The finish order had been decided.
The reigning World Champions New Zealand featured in Heat Three. Zoe Stevenson and Eve MacFarlane of New Zealand have not had a very good lead up to Rio and today it was Australia's Sally Kehoe and Genevieve Horton who had the lead at the start. Australia hold the World Best Time in this boat class and they were making the best of the conditions. Greece's Aikaterini Nikolaidou and Sofia Asoumanaki followed in second with New Zealand in third. A big finish sprint by Stevenson and MacFarlane earned them first at the line.
Qualifiers: LTU, GBR, FRA, POL, CHN, BLR, NZL, AUS, GRE
Men's Double Sculls (M2x) - Heats
The men's double sculls had three heats and the top three boats in each heat would get to go directly to the semifinals. Top seeds in Heat One was New Zealand and Great Britain. These two crews were alongside each other with Robert Manson and Christopher Harris of New Zealand in the lead. This duo took bronze at last year's World Rowing Championships. Through the body of the race New Zealand and Azerbaijan went neck and neck. The young Azerbaijan crew included 2012 Olympian Aleksandar Aleksandrov and 20-year-old Boris Yotov. The head-to-head battle continued into the final sprint with the lead remaining hard to determine.
Both New Zealand and Azerbaijan were on 33 with New Zealand reaching the finish line just a fraction ahead of Azerbaijan. Italy came through in third.
The 2015 World silver medallists, Lithuania took the lead in Heat Two. Lithuania had a last minute substitution with single sculler, Mindaugas Griskonis coming into the boat and joining Saulius Ritter. Lithuania kept up an aggressive 35 stroke rate to keep the lead with Germany and Norway both challenging for second. Both Germany and Norway included crew members who have medalled at the Olympic level in the men's single sculls - Marcel Hacker for Germany and two-time Olympic Champion, Olaf Tufte of Norway.
Rating 36, Norway's Tufte and Kjetil Borch got their nose ahead of Germany and went after Lithuania in the final sprint. Lithuania held them off. In a time of 6:29, Lithuania had recorded the fastest qualifying time.
Heat Three featured the 2014 and 2015 World Champions, Croatia. Martin and Valent Sinkovic of Croatia have not lost a major race since they came together in the double in 2014. The duo were originally in their nation's Olympic medal winning men's quadruple sculls. Already from the start of the race, the Sinkovics were able to pull away and they easily reached the first 500m point in the lead. Australia's David Watts and Christopher Morgan followed in second with France in third. Croatia kept their stroke rate high and proved to be able to handle the rough water, getting to the 1000m mark easily in the lead.
A huge lead had been established by Croatia as they came into the final 500m of the race with Australia not able to stay ahead of Hugo Boucheron and Matthieu Androdias of France.
Qualifiers: NZL, AZE, ITA, LTU, NOR, GER, CRO, FRA, AUS
Lightweight Men's Four (LM4-) - Heats
The three heats in this boat class had crews vying for a top three position. This would give them a direct path to the semifinals. All of these athletes had to weigh in this morning to make sure they fitted the criteria of an average boat weight of 70kg. In Heat One Italy had an edge over France and Switzerland. Switzerland hold the title of reigning World and European Champions and their third place position was still very much within striking distance. Then China did a push and got into second. The margins were tight for the top four spots. France could not hold the final pace with Italy, China and Switzerland crossing the line together, separated by less than half a second.
Two medallists from the London Olympics lined up in Heat Two - Denmark and Great Britain. There was also Germany and late entry Greece. The Greeks got a late call up after the qualified Russian crew proved to be ineligible to compete. Denmark worked their way through to being in the lead at the half way point. Greece and Great Britain were neck and neck for second. This was a great effort by Greece who would have had less preparation time. Denmark kept their stroke long and stroke rate high to remain in front with Great Britain getting second and Greece third. Denmark, with a 5:58, had recorded the fastest qualifying time.
So far this season New Zealand has had some impressive results. This put them in good stead today as they lined up in Heat Three as the first ever lightweight four to contest this boat class at the Olympics. Coming out at the start New Zealand managed to get into the lead with the United States the closest challengers and the Netherlands in third. New Zealand held on to first through the body of the race with the United States hanging on. All crews were rating around 38 strokes per minute as they came into the final sprint.
Then New Zealand's Lassche, Taylor, Bond and Hunter managed to push away from the United States with the Netherlands still holding on to third. The order remained the same right through to the line.
Qualifiers: ITA, CHN, SUI, DEN, GBR, GRE, NZL, USA, NED
Men's Quadruple Sculls (M4x) - Heats
This boat class had two heats with the top two boats in each heat earning a direct path to the finals on Wednesday 10 August. Getting away quickly in Heat One was 2014 World Champions, Ukraine with Olympic Champions, Germany following in second. Germany has retained three members that took gold four years ago ant they proceeded to challenge the leading Ukrainians. The 2012 Olympic fourth place finishers, Estonia was in third. Canada, who qualified at the last chance qualification regatta in May, followed in fourth. Then going through the middle of the race, Estonia (the European Champions) moved into first. Margins remained tight and less than two seconds separated the top four boats.
Then with 300m left to row disaster struck the Canadian boat. A bad stroke brought the boat to a halt. Estonia crossed the line in first ith Ukraine holding on to second. Germany would have to go through the repechages if they wanted to make the final.
A fast start by Great Britain got them into the lead of Heat Two. The British had a late substitution with Jack Beaumont coming into the boat. Poland, the 2008 Olympic Champions, then got into the lead. But it was Australia that saw the 1000m mark first. Poland pushed back and at teh 1500m mark they had the lead. Margins, however, were incredibly tight with just over a second separating the top three boats - Poland, Australia and Switzerland.
Rating 39, Poland gave it their all as Switzerland and Great Britain and Australia stormed home. Australia had won and Poland had taken second. Switzerland had just missed out and will need to contest the repechage. Australia had recorded the fastest qualifying time.
Qualifiers: EST, UKR, AUS, POL
Women's Quadruple Sculls (W4x) - Heats
Two heats in the women's quadruple sculls saw that the first in each race getting a direct path to the final on Wednesday. The 2012 Olympic Champions, Ukraine had a god start and found the lead. This is a new crew from the London boat with Verkhogliad, Buryak, Kozhenkova and Nimchenko doing a great job. Australia followed in second with the Netherlands and China just a bit behind the field. China took gold at the 2008 Olympic Games and since then have not really featured strongly. At the line Ukraine had secured the sole qualifying spot with the rest of the field following very closely behind.
The final race of the day, Heat Two in the women's quadruple sculls had three boats including the reigning World Champions, Germany. The Germans are regular medallists in this boat class with a winning history going back a couple of decades. Today, however it was Poland that had a great start and took off in the lead. The 2015 World Champions, United States followed behind Germany in third.
Then Germany's Thiele, Baer, Lier and Schmidla got into the lead and managed to rate lower than Poland to stay in front. The order had been decided by the 1500m mark. Germany had earned a spot in the final.
Qualifiers: UKR, GER