Rowing is back racing at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games
After racing was postponed yesterday, Rio's regatta venue, Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon turned on great conditions for the rowers at the 2016 Olympic Games. Under cloudy skies, rowing delivered exactly what the waiting crowds expected - fast and furious racing. The day started off with flat water. Then about half way through the morning a cross tail wind caused lively water.
In a day full of highlights, the Danish women's pair of Hedvig Rasmussen and Anne Andersen led the unbeaten British women's pair of Helen Glover and Heather Stanning until the last few metres of their heat. Here is the race report.
Men's Quadruple Sculls (M4x) - Repechage
Canada rocketed off the start to try and dominate this one repechage which required a top two finish to keep their Olympic medal hopes alive. The Canadians caught a boat-stopping crab in their heat two days ago which put them into this repechage today. But it was the World and Olympic Champions, Germany that got to the first 500m mark the fastest. This German crew contains three of the Olympic crew from London, but they have had mixed results this season which saw them out of a dominating position. Germany's Wende, Schoof, Schutze and Gruhne remained in first through the middle of the race using a 35 stroke rate pace with very close margins between the rest of the field.
Great Britain had been following in second for the majority of the race and, along with Germany, they had qualified for Wednesday's final. This is a great effort for Great Britain who had to have a late substitution with Jack Beaumont coming into the boat. Germany had put themselves in a position to defend their Olympic title.
Qualifiers: GER, GBR
Women's Quadruple Sculls (W4x) - Repechage
The top four boats would get to go directly to the final on Wednesday, so one crew would miss out. Poland shot out at the start and got ahead of the reigning World Champions, the United States. Poland then really found their rhythm and managed to push away from the field with the Netherlands now slipping into second ahead of the United States. Margins, though, remained incredibly tight and coming into the final sprint the Netherlands managed to pull out in front leaving a full on fight for the remaining three spots. In a photo finish at the line it was Australia that had just missed out. A mere 0.06 of a second had seen Australia's Olympic medal hopes dashed.
Qualifier: NED, POL, CHN, USA
Women's Eight (W8+) - Heats
Two heats divided up the seven countries racing in this boat class and in Heat One the United States featured. The US has not lost a major race since 2006 and must be considered one of the most outstanding sporting dynasties of all time. Just to prove their dominance, the United States got away the fastest and destroyed the moral of the rest of the field by moving further and further away. Settling into a 35 stroke rate pace the US was all about power, showing the world their incredibly strong finishes to the stroke. With one boat only qualifying directly for the final, the United States had secured that spot. The rest of the field would return for a repechage with second-placed The Netherlands in a handy position. Meanwhile the United States would not race again until their final on Saturday. Their very quick time of 6:06 was the fastest qualifying time.
Heat Two saw New Zealand jump out to a fast start. This is the first time that a New Zealand women's eight has raced at the Olympic Games and this crew has been proving themselves through the 2016 season with World Cup medals. By the first 500m mark, New Zealand had a very small lead over Canada and Great Britain. The three boats remained incredibly tight through the body of the race with New Zealand maintaining a slight margin. Coming into the final sprint barely a second separated all three crews. Then the British began to pour on the power and stroke by stroke they inched into the lead. Rating 38, Great Britain led the boats to the finish and also a qualifying spot in Saturday's final.
Qualifiers: USA, GBR
Men's Eight (M8+) - Heats
The seven boats in the men's eight had been divided into two heats with the top boat only in each heat getting a direct path to the final on Saturday. In Heat One Great Britain did 41 strokes per minute through to the first 500m mark and got there first. The British are the World Champions but they finished outside of the medals at the World Rowing Cup in June. Today, though, it looked like they were making no mistakes as they led the field. Through the middle of the race, Great Britain, rating 36, remained in the lead with New Zealand pushing into second ahead of the Dutch crew. New Zealand has not featured in this boat class at recent Olympic Games, but the country has a history of strong Olympic eights from the past.
Coming into the final sprint there was nothing between New Zealand and the Netherlands with Great Britain looking rather comfortable with a full boat length lead. Rating 35 the British looked comfortable. Meanwhile NZL and NED were both at 40 and going neck-and-neck. Great Britain had earned the one qualifying spot.
The Olympic Champions, Germany got away very quickly in Heat Two. Germany has consistently been coming second through the most recent World Rowing Championship regattas (behind Great Britain) and a strong rivalry has developed between these two countries. The Germans got to the first 500m mark just a bit ahead of the United States. The US crew qualified for Rio at the last chance qualification regatta in May this year which means this is the second time they have had to be at their very best this year. But they were doing a great job in this race and were managing to hold the German pace.
Rating 36 through the body of the race, Germany managed to then push away from the United States who, in turn, had pushed away from Poland at the rear of the field. Germany then did not really need to sprint and they were able to rate 32 to hold off the United States. Germany had earned a spot in the final on Saturday.
Qualifiers: GBR, GER
Men's Single Sculls (M1x) - Repechages
Three repechages lined up with the aim of being in a top two position. This would give the sculler a spot in the quarterfinals. Repechage One featured Vanuatu's Luigi Teilemb and Libya's Aihussein Gambour who have both become the first Olympic rowers for their respective countries. It was Kazakhstan that made the start exciting as Vladislav Yakovlev flipped with just 200m rowed. Algeria's Sid Ali Boudina made the most of it and got out into the lead. He remained there through the middle of the race. Boudina then proceeded to move clean away from the rest of the field leaving Peru's Renzo Leon Garcia to follow in second. Meanwhile Yakovlev had managed to get back in his boat and finish the race. This allows him to move on to the lesser semifinals.
Repechage Two had Jaruwat Saensuk of Thailand get away the quickest followed closely by Korea and Ecuador. Then Ecuador slipped right back with Korea's Dongyong Kim taking over in the lead. This then saw Kim and Saensuk go neck and neck through the middle of the race. But it was Kim that had paced himself the best and in the final sprint Kim was able to push away from Saensuk who was now under threat from Mohammed Al-Khafaji of Iraq. The Iraqi was having the finish of his life and in a big burst, Al-Khafaji got ahead of Saensuk and into a qualifying spot. Kim's finishing time of 7:12 indicated the impressive speed of this repechage.
Tunisia's Mohamed Taieb got away very quickly in Repechage Three. The 19-year-old raced here on the Lagoa at last year's Olympic test event, the World Rowing Junior Championships. Taieb then qualified for the Olympics through the African Qualification Regatta. Then Andrew Peebles of Zimbabwe pushed ahead of Taieb to take the lead. Peebles still had the lead through the middle of the race with Uzbekistan's Shakhboz Kholmurzaev now coming through in second. But the race was far from over and Armandas Kelmelis of Lithuania then came storming through. The 18-year-old Kelmelis is a late call up as Lithuania's original single sculler had to be pulled into his nation's men's double sculls leaving a spot for Kelmelis. A big sprint by Kelmelis and also Kholmurzaev denied Peebles of a qualifying spot but success for Lithuania and Uzbekistan.
Qualifiers: ALG, PER, KOR, IRQ, LTU, UZB
Men's Pair (M2-) - Repechage
This was the last chance for these four crews to make the semifinals and it was all about not coming last. The top three boats would qualify. Roel Braas and Mitchel Steenman of the Netherlands had the fastest start. But margins were tight and going through the first 500m mark only two seconds separated the entire field. This closeness remained through the middle of the race as Braas and Steenman retained a slight margin. Then Serbia's Milos Vasic and Nenad Bedik took their stroke rate to 40 strokes per minute to move from the back of the field and through to second behind the Dutch. Serbia was unfortunate to flip their boat during the heats two days ago and today they looked like they were coming back with renewed energy. Keeping their stroke rate high Vasic and Bedik overtook Braas and Steenman. Braas and Steenman reacted back to get to the line just ahead. The third qualifying boat was the United States crew of Anders Weiss and Nareg Guregian. Spain's Olympic regatta had come to an end.
Qualifiers: NED, SRB, USA
Women's Double Sculls (W2x) - Repechage
Four boats lined up with the top three able to qualify for the semifinals. Germany's Marie-Catherine Arnold and Mareike Adams got away the quickest. Arnold and Adams are part of the strong German women's sculling squad and as a partnership in the double, they are a rather new combination. Holding a 35 stroke rate Germany held on to the lead through the middle of the race. But the Czech Republic's Kristyna Fleissnerova and Lenka Antosova were pushing hard. These two boat managed to press away from the rest of the field. Coming into the final sprint the United States picked up the pace and got their boat overlapping. Then Elen Tomek and Meghan O'Leary went after Germany. A photo finish at the line gave Germany first, just 0.06 of a second ahead of the United States. Meanwhile the Czech Republic had only just managed to hold off Denmark to earn the remaining qualifying spot. The Olympic regatta was all over for Denmark.
Qualifiers: GER, USA, CZE
Men's Double Sculls (M2x) - Repechage
The top three boats of these four crews would get to go to the semifinals. So it was all about not coming last. At the start it was Serbia's Marko Marjanovic and Andrja Sljukic that led the way. Great Britain's Jonathan Walton and John Collins followed in second. This order remained the same through the middle of the race with Great Britain rating just a fraction higher than Serbia. Meanwhile Cuba and Bulgaria had their own battle going on as neither of these crews wanted to be fourth.
Serbia held a slight edge coming into the final sprint and with 300m left to row Great Britain got their bow ball ahead of Serbia. Collins and Walton were at 36 with Marjanovic and Sljukic at 38 as Cuba and Bulgaria charged to the line. There was barely anything in it between these four crews and the score board showed less than a two second gap between first and last. Great Britain was first. Cuba had missed out in the semifinals by just 0.10 of a second.
Qualifiers: GBR, BUL, SRB
Lightweight Men's Four (LM4-) - Repechage
This was the last chance for these crews to make it to the semifinals and with four boats lining up, one boat would miss out. France got away very quickly crossing the first 500m mark in the lead. But margins were close and there was another 1500m of racing to go. Looking a picture of synchronicity, France got to the half way point first with Germany the closest challengers. This French boat included the experienced Franck Solforosi who is at his third Olympic Games - each time racing in the lightweight four.
As these boats came into the final sprint, the field looked like it was closing on the French. Even Canada, at the back of the field, was in striking distance. But the order remained the same and Canada will not be going to the semifinals.
Qualifiers: FRA, GER, CZE
Lightweight Women's Double Sculls (LW2x) - Heats
Twenty countries had qualified in this boat class and they were divided into four heats with the top two boats in each heat getting to go directly to the semifinals. This boat class had no real favourite with each heat promising to reveal some surprises. In Heat One it was China's Wenyi Huang and Feihong Pan that got away the quickest with Denmark the closest challengers. Huang is the silver medallist from the London Olympics and recently they finished fourth at the World Rowing Cup. Denmark's Anne Lolk Thomsen and Juliane Rasmussen remained in second. This is the same duo that raced in the A-final at the London Olympics. The United States followed in third. Surprisingly Olympic Champion from London, Katherine Copeland was back in fifth with her partner Charlotte Taylor.
In the final sprint China remained just ahead of Denmark to make up the two crews to go directly to the semifinals.
The New Zealand double World Champions featured in Heat Two and they were up against the European Champions the Netherlands. Ilse Paulis and Maaike Head of the Netherlands qualified for Rio at the last chance qualification regatta in May and they have been showing their speed all season. At the start it was the Netherlands and Vietnam that showed the most early speed. They crossed the 500m mark practically together. Japan and New Zealand followed just a second back, also practically together.
Then Vietnam began to slip back leaving New Zealand to move up into second and go after the Dutch. Head and Paulis proved to be the strongest and crossed the line ahead of Julia Edward and Sophie MacKenzie of New Zealand. These are the two crews to go directly to the semifinals with Head and Paulis recording the fastest qualifying time.
Heat Three had the seeded crews of South Africa and Ireland with South Africa's Kirsten McCann and Ursula Grobler the first to show. And what a showing it was! With just 40 strokes rowed McCann and Grobler had a handy lead leaving Claire Lambe and Sinead Lynch of Ireland about three seconds back. McCann and Grobler held a steady 34 stroke rate through the boat of the race to move further away. Could they hold this pace to the end? Ireland was solidly in second with Brazil in third but a bit too far off the pace to press into a qualifying spot. South Africa had turned this race into a procession and no change occurred in the qualifying order.
Heat Four had Poland's Weronika Deresz and Martyna Mikolajczak of Poland showing first. Then Germany's Fini Sturm and Marie-Louise Draeger took over in front with Canada pressing hard. The margins remained close between these three crews as they came into the second half of the race. Canada's Liondsay Jennerich and Patricia Obee then got their nose in front and began to move away from the field. Jennerich and Obee raced at the London Olympics together, ending up in the B-final. Today showed that they may be medal potentials as they crossed the line in first. Poland came back to finish second as Germany faded.
Qualifiers: CHN, DEN, NED, NZL, RSA, IRL, CAN, POL
Lightweight Men's Double Sculls (LM2x) - Heats
The 20 countries were split into four heats with the top two boats getting to go directly to the semifinals. In Heat One Italy's Andrea Micheletti and Marcello Miani got away the quickest and they held the lead at the half way stage. Germany and Ireland followed incredibly closely in second and third. Micheletti and Miani held on to a high 37 stroke rate as the O'Donovan brothers from Ireland began to move on the leaders. With just 500m left to row Gary and Paul O'Donovan had nearly caught the lead. Italy remained at 37 and it looked like it was not enough to hold off Ireland who had hit a 42 stroke rate. Italy reacted with 43 strokes per minute. Ireland got to the line first. This two-way battle to the line took Italy and Ireland away from the rest of the field and off to the semifinals.
The 2013 World Champions, Norway took off very quickly in Heat Two. Kristoffer Brun and Are Strandli of Norway has been the most regular crew to make the podium over the last couple of seasons and they were pushing away from the field. The United States (Josh Konieczny and Andrew Campbell) followed in second. These two boats looked like the clear qualifiers coming into the middle of the race. But nothing is certain until the finish line and Brun and Strandli kept the pressure on and their boat in front. Holding a 35 stroke rate, Norway remained at the head of the field. But then Konieczny and Campbell took their stroke rate up in a last ditch attempt to catch Strandli and Brun. But Strandli and Brun seemed unconcerned and did just enough to keep ahead of the United States. Both of these crews were the easy qualifiers.
The reigning World Champions, France featured in Heat Three. Jeremie Azou was in the boat at the World Championships and has been joined by his new partner, Pierre Houin. Azou and Houin took off at a solid pace to get to the first 500m mark in the lead. But margins were tight and Poland and Japan both were very much in striking distance. Azou and Houin then showed their class and pushed away from Poland (Artur Mikolajczewski and Milosz Jankowski) who had solidified their position in second. This order remained the same until the line. France and Poland had qualified for the semifinals.
Heat Four had the 2014 World Champions, James Thompson and John Smith of South Africa lining up. Thompson and Smith took gold at the London Olympics as the first African nation to do this in rowing. Four years ago they did it in the lightweight men's four. Now in the double they had proved to have a fabulous finishing sprint. For this race it was Great Britain's Will Fletcher and Richard Chambers that had the early lead.
Through the body of the race South Africa and Great Britain paced each other side-by-side. Then coming into the final sprint Smith and Thompson took their stroke rate up to 37 and pulled ahead of Chambers and Fletcher. The British seemed unreactive and South Africa was able to move away to a boat length lead in just 300m. Thompson and Smith had recorded the fastest qualifying time.
Qualifiers: IRL, ITA, NOR, USA, FRA, POL, RSA, GBR
Women's Pair (W2-) - Heats
Three heats lined up in the women's pair with the top three boats in each heat getting to go directly to the semifinals. Heat One featured the World and Olympic Champions, Helen Glover and Heather Stanning of Great Britain. This crew has remained unbeaten since 2012 but today it was Hedvig Rasmussen and Anne Andersen of Denmark in the lead at the start. This was quite an unusual state of affairs as normally Glover and Stanning lead right from the start and then win by open water. But Rasmussen and Anderson had completely shaken up the status quo.
For 1995m Rasmussen and Anderson held the lead. For 1995m British fans around the world must have wondered what was going on. To get into the lead the British shortened up, took their stroke rate to 40, then 43 and got ahead over the Danish 33 stroke rate. Glover and Stanning remained undefeated and will move to the semifinals along with Denmark and Germany. The British duo had recorded the fastest qualifying time.
Heat Two had South Africa's Lee-Ann Persse and Kate Christowitz in the lead at the start followed very, very closely by New Zealand and France. The New Zealand crew of Genevieve Behrent and Rebecca Scown have already raced today as they are also in their nation's women's eight. But they looked fresh and by the middle of the race Scown and Behrent had pushed into the lead with South Africa now under threat from China.
In the final sprint Persse and Christowitz rated 35 and looked to close on New Zealand who got up to 37 strokes per minute. China (Min Zhang and Tian Miao) followed in third, unable to catch South Africa. These are the qualifying crews.
The third and final heat had the United States' crew of Felice Mueller and Grace Luczak get away the quickest. Spain's Anna Boada Peiro and Aina Cid I Centelles followed in second. Mueller and Luczak train with the United States women's squad under women's eight coach, Tom Terhaar. Together they pushed away from the rest of the field going through the middle of the race. Meanwhile Poland was putting Spain under pressure with Italy also within striking distance.
With the United States crossing the line easily in first an incredible battle went on between three boats for the remaining two spots. Italy, Spain and Poland were all going for it. At the line Italy had just missed out by a mere 0.24 of a second. The Italians will have to return for the repechage.
Qualifiers: GBR, DEN, GER, NZL, RSA, CHN, USA, ESP, POL
Men's Four (M4-) - Heats
The men's four had 13 countries entered and they had been divided into three heats with the top three boats in each heat getting to do directly to the semifinals. In Heat One, Australia was the fastest to get away. This crew finished second at last year's World Rowing Championships and they have been strong throughout the 2016 season. By the middle of the race Australia (Lockwood, Dunkley-Smith, Booth and Hill) had an open water margin leaving the rest of the field to battle for the remaining two spots. The Netherlands, who are the 2013 World Champions, followed in second with Romania and Germany right on their pace. Australia had recorded the fastest qualifying time.
In the final sprint Germany, rating 38, managed to get their boat into second with the Netherlands denying Romania of a qualifying spot.
Heat Two saw the reigning World Champions, Italy get away the quickest. The Italians kept their stroke rate high, going through the first 500m rating 39 to 40 strokes per minute. Belarus and the United States followed closely in second and third respectively. Then the United States, who took bronze at the London 2012 Olympics, pushed into second and started to close on the Italians. Italy, still rating high, held the lead. Their stroke rate had been nearly 40 for the entire race - a phenomenal pace to try and hold for 2000m. Then Canada came charging through. Rating 42, the Canadians closed on the United States who went to 44 strokes per minute to hold off Canada. The Canadians got there first. Both crews will qualify.
Making the most of the last Heat of the day, Heat Three of the men's four, was South Africa. But it was 2016 World Cup winners, Great Britain that go to the first 500m mark the quickest. The British have won the 2012, 2008, 2004 and 2000 Olympic Games in this boat class and coach Juergen Grobler has prioritised this boat again in 2016. Alex Gregory, Mohamed Sbihi, George Nash and Constantine Louloudis of Great Britain now had a full boat length lead by the middle of the race. South Africa held on to second with France and Greece also very much on the pace.
Rating a solid 35, Great Britain continued to pull away from the field with Greece now in second ahead of South Africa. The Greeks often pull out a big sprint and that is what they were doing today. As the British crossed the line in first, Greece came flying through to take a well-deserved second and France was third. South Africa would have to return for the repechage.
Qualifiers: AUS, GER, NED, ITA, CAN, USA, GBR, GRE, FRA