Reigning champs France out of semifinal
The waters of Lake Bled have been rather bumpy over the past couple of days but today the best rowers in the world enjoyed flat, calm conditions at the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia. In a morning of repechage racing, crews were racing for much more than semifinal spots, they were also racing to keep their Olympic qualification hopes alive. Good luck did not shine on the French men’s four. In a repechage that needed crews to finish in the top two, France ended up in third when the pressure came on.
Today in the repechages, boats in the Olympic events had the pressure of aiming for the next round of racing as well as keeping their 2012 Olympic qualification hopes alive. The women’s eight had four boats going through to final and coming through the first half of the race only China was off the pace. Great Britain got into first with the Dutch and Romania following very closely behind. A huge sprint to the line by China denied Germany of qualifying but gave a spot to the openly happy Chinese crew. Great Britain, Romania, the Netherlands and China move on to Friday’s final andthe top five boats from that final will qualfiy for the 2012 Olympic Games.
Men's Four (M4-) - repechage
Boats in these four repechages had to finish first or second to keep their World Championship finals hopes and their Olympic qualification dreams alive. Repechage one turned into the upset of the day when three boats – France, New Zealand and the Netherlands – fought it out all of the way to the line. In a photo finish, reigning World Champions and Olympic bronze medallists France had missed out. The talented French crew of Despres, Macquet, Chardin and Mortelette must consider themselves incredibly unlucky as their time of 5:56.08 turned out to be the third fastest time of the four reps. The Dutch and New Zealand earn semifinal spots.
Repechage two was much more pedestrian with the two leading crews setting themselves up in qualification spots early on in the 2000m race. The United States (Lanzone, Newlin, Gault and Cole) took the lead and Italy slotting in close behind them. This remained unchanged and both of these boats earn a spot in the semifinals.
With every race this season the Australians seem to be improving. They led the way in repechage three and perhaps under the influence of three-time Olympic Champion, Drew Ginn in two seat, the Australians looked calm and collected. Australia and Serbia qualify for the semifinals from this race.
The Canadians finished second at the 2004 Olympics and today in repechage four they looked to be on a comeback trail. Jacob, Kowalyk, Dean and O’Farrell led the way over the Czech Republic who will also qualify for the semifinals.
Women's Single Sculls (W1x) - Repechages
Two repechages in the women’s single sculls required these solo athletes to finish in the top three for advancement to the semifinals. Nataliya Mustafayeva of Azerbaijan has been coming along in leaps and bounds ever since she moved from Ukraine to Azerbaijan. At the finals World Rowing Cup in July, Mustafayeva made the A-final and today she notched up the fastest qualifying time and a spot in the semifinals. Russia’s Julia Levina and Genevra Stone of the United States also advanced.
A back injury kept Frances Houghton of Great Britain out of the higher priority women’s quad. But today Houghton showed her single sculling skills by winning repechage two. Donata Vistaraite of Lithuania led for most of the race but did not sprint the finish and Kaisa Pajusalu of Estonia qualified from third.
Men's Single Sculls (M1x) - Repechages
The quarterfinals of the men’s single sculls started with more drama when reigning World Champion, Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic came into the final sprint under pressure from three other crews. Synek is known for his cunning racing tactics but today it almost left him out of the semifinals. Had a huge sprint by Tim Maeyens of Belgium and Azerbaijan’s Aleksandar Aleksandrov caught Synek off guard? At the line Cuba’s Angel Fournier Rodriguez had finished first and also clocked the fastest qualifying time of the quarterfinals. Aleksandrov came through in second and Synek did just enough to stay ahead of Maeyens. Olympic finalist, Maeyens will now have to try and qualify for the 2012 Olympics at the last chance in May next year.
Despite a bike accident two days ago, Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand made good work of quarterfinal two leading over Mindaugas Griskonis of Lithuania and Kenneth Jurkowski of the United States. Drysdale has been cycling more and spending less time on the water in an attempt to stave off back problems and he looked strong and in control coming into the finish. Drysdale, Griskonis and Jurkowski advance to the semifinals.
Defending two-time Olympic Champion Olaf Tufte of Norway has been struggling with form this season and he has come to Bled with a much simpler goal of just qualifying for the Olympics. Today Tufte performed the sprint of his life to come through from fourth and into a qualifying position. Great Britain’s Alan Campbell led for most of the race with Liang Zhang of China challenging hard. Then, in the final sprint, Tufte upped his stroke rate to 41 and attacked. At the line Campbell, Tufte and Zhang sat there exhausted. These three athletes had earned semifinal spots.
The final quarterfinal opened with Georgi Bozhilov of Bulgaria in the lead and closed with Sweden’s Lassi Karonen crossing the line in first. Karonen has been competing in the single for the last seven years but it yet to collect a World Champion medal. Is this his year? Karonen comes to Bled with three World Rowing Cup medals from this season and a stronger looking body. Today Karonen led over Germany’s Marcel Hacker who returns to international competition following back surgery six weeks ago. Karonen, Hacker and Bozhilov all looked relieved as they crossed the finish line in semifinal qualifying positions.
Lightweight Men's Double Sculls - Quarterfinals
The lightweight men’s double sculls quarterfinals opened with last year’s silver medallists, Elia Luini and Lorenzo Bertini of Italy taking the top spot. Bertini and Luini chased down Germany to take the lead. At the line Italy had taken first, Denmark’s comeback crew (Rasmussen and Quist) rated 38 to take second and Germany’s Linus Lichtschlag and Lars Hartig qualified from third.
The rivalry between Olympic Champions and World Champions Great Britain (Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter) and 2009 World Champions New Zealand (Storm Uru and Peter Taylor) continues. Today they matched up in quarterfinal two with Great Britain having a slight edge for the majority of the race. This front line battle left the rest of the field far behind as the two favourites sprinted into the final 500m. Then, about 100m before the finish, Purchase and Hunter backed off completely. Uru and Taylor qualified from first, Great Britain from second and a very happy Poland (Jankowski and Stanczuk) from third.
Three boats – Greece, Canada and France – fought it out for the entire 2000m in quarterfinal three. At the finish less than a second separated them with Greece (Konsolas and Magdanis) just in front. These three boats are off to the semifinals.
China continued to show that they had what it takes. In quarterfinal four Fangbing Zhang and Tiexin Wang of China ledt from start to finish with Norway’s Svein Urban Ringstad and Are Strandli coming through in second and Portugal’s sole 2008 Olympic boat of Pedro Fraga and Nunos Mendes coming through in third.
Lightweight Women's Double Sculls - Repechages
The four repechages in the lightweight women’s double sculls ended with eight boats advancing to the semifinals. Wenyi Huang and Feihong Pan from China recorded the fastest qualifying time when they raced in the fourth repechage. Huang, 20, and Pan, 22, both made the Chinese national team for the first time last year and they raced to seventh at the 2010 World Rowing Championships. Anne Lolk Thomsen and Juliane Rasmussen of Denmark took out second to also qualify.
In races that had the qualifiers sorted out relatively early in the piece, the Netherlands, Italy, New Zealand, Germany, Australia and Belgium earned themselves semifinal spots and also kept their Olympic qualification hopes alive.