Soggy, slippery semifinals at Lucerne World Rowing Cup
The rain came down just in time for the start of semifinal racing at the 2014 World Rowing Cup in Lucerne, Switzerland. Moving through this round of racing rowers sitting in the starting blocks had to make sure their hands stayed firmly on the handles of their wet oars. This added an extra element of skill to the outdoor sport of rowing.
Although temperatures were cool, the water remained flat calm on the Rotsee regatta course in this final leg of the 2014 World Rowing Cup series.
Lightweight Men's Pair (LM2-) - Semifinals
Simon Niepmann and Lucas Tramer of Switzerland came out of the London Olympic lightweight men's four and set themselves up in the pair. It was a wise choice as they won last year's World Rowing Championships and followed it up with a win at this year's European Rowing Championships. They raced today at the head of the field in the first Semifinal. But France and the Czech Republic did not make it easy for the locals. France's Clement Duret and Theophile Onfroy had the lead at the start before Jiri Kopac and Miroslav Vrastil of the Czech Republic pushed ahead, with Niepmann and Tramer then finding the lead. Kopac and Vrastil recorded the fastest qualifying time from yesterday's heats, but times were all very close.
In the final sprint, Switzerland, France and the Czech Republic remained locked together. Niepmann and Tramer were able to keep their nose in front and earn the first place and the fastest qualifying time.
Great Britain's Jonathan Clegg and Sam Scrimgeour had an easier time of it in Semifinal Two. Clegg and Scimgeour won their heat yesterday and look set to make a strong challenge for the medals at this regatta after finishing fourth last month at the World Rowing Cup in Aiguebelette. Italy Two challenged Great Britain but then looked content to qualify from third. Meanwhile, Australia's Darryn Purcell and Alister Foot pushed through into second to secure their spot in the final.
Clegg and Scrimgeour crossed the line looking comfortable at a 34 stroke rate pace.
Qualifiers: SUI, CZE, FRA, GBR, AUS, ITA
Lightweight Men's Single Sculls (LM1x) - Semifinals
Semifinal One had Switzerland's Michael Schmid dominating the leader's spot. Schmid finished sixth in this event at last year's World Rowing Championships and has already medalled this season at the European Rowing Championships. Coming through the middle of the race Schmid had a full boat length lead, but he still pressed on to record the fastest qualifying time.
Meanwhile, Rajko Hrvat of Slovenia One came back from a slow start to get into a qualifying position with France One (Damien Piqueras) also having to push through the field to earn a qualifying spot. Hrvat and Piqueras both followed the theory that the second half of the race would decide the results.
In Semifinal Two, Great Britain's Adam Freeman-Pask and Daniel Lawitzke of Germany went head to head for the leading position. Lawitzke was the silver medallist at the World Rowing Cup in Aiguebelette, while Freeman-Pask has raced in the full range of lightweight classes during his eight-year international career. A better sprint to the line by Freeman-Pask gave him the top spot with Lawitzke qualifying from second and Spyridon Giannaros of Greece One staying ahead of Denmark to earn the remaining qualifying spot.
Qualifiers: SUI1, SLO1, FRA1, GBR, GER, GRE1
Lightweight Women's Single Sculls (LW1x) - Semifinals
After winning at the World Rowing Cup in Aiguebelette last month, New Zealand's Julia Edward showed that she was just as useful in the single as she has been in the lightweight double. Edward rowed at the Olympic Games in the double but this season her doubles partner has stepped away from international competition leaving Edward in the single. Edward led the way in Semifinal One. Marie-Louise Draeger of Germany Two did not give Edward an easy ride. Draeger took a year off after racing in the open single at the London Olympics and she is a very experienced competitor dating back to 1999.
Coming into the end, Edward and Draeger were both easily out in front and were able to take their stroke rate right down. Behind them Aikaterini Nikolaidou of Greece One was comfortably in third.
Semifinal Two turned out to be the faster of the two semifinals with Netherlands One and Two racing each other at the head of the field. Marie-Anne Frenken of Netherlands One was second at this year's European Rowing Championships and also is the reigning World Champion in the lightweight quadruple sculls. Frenken managed to hold off Nienke van Hoogenhuijze of Netherlands Two. Van Hoogenhuijze started her international career last year in the open-weight quadruple sculls. These two scullers will race each other again in tomorrow's final.
Behind the Dutch Stefanie Borzacchini of Austria One had to perform a solid 35 stroke rate sprint to remain ahead of Italy and earn a qualifying spot. The final line up was decided.
Qualifiers: NZL, GER2, GRE1, NED1, NED2, AUT1
Women's Double Sculls (W1x) - Semifinals
After winning at the European Rowing Championships, it looked as if this would be a great season for Poland's Magdalena Fularczyk and Natalia Madaj. They then took third in Aiguebelette. Today the Poles had a very solid and even race in Semifinal One to give them a first place. It also pushed winners in Aiguebelette, Olympia Aldersey and Sally Kehoe of Australia into second. Aldersey and Kehoe seemed content not to really push it at the end and remained in second behind Poland at the end.
Meanwhile last year's silver medallists, Fiona Bourke and Zoe Stevenson rowed a consistent race to finish third and qualify for the A-final. This is a solid performance by Bourke and Stevenson who ended up in the B-final in Aiguebelette.
The second Semifinal turned out to be the faster semi when World Champions, Donata Vistartaite and Milda Valciukaite of Lithuania got out in front and established the pace. Behind them the remaining five crews were locked closely together with just half a second separating all five going through the middle of the race.
Then, Denmark and Germany began to slip back as the United States and Belarus showed that they had the stamina. The United States crew of Meghan O'Leary and Ellen Tomek remained strong overtaking Belarus heroes, Ekaterina Karsten and Yuliya Bichyk to get into second. But no crew could close the large lead that the Lithuanian's had established. At the line Lithuania, the United States and Belarus made it to the final.
Qualifiers: POL, AUS, NZL, LTU, USA, BLR1
Lightweight Men's Four (LM4-) - Semifinals
Last year Denmark beat New Zealand to the World Championships title. This year New Zealand came back at the World Rowing Cup in Aiguebelette to finish first over Denmark. Today they raced each other in Semifinal One and they raced it like a final. New Zealand's Hunter, Taylor, Lassche and Rapley got a small lead at the start with Denmark's Winther, Larsen, Barsoe and Joergensen right on their coat tails.
This order remained the same through the body of the race with New Zealand able to counter every Danish move. Coming to the line Denmark used a 45 stroke rate to try and get the lead. New Zealand, at 41, would not let them have it. New Zealand, Denmark and France (in third) will meet again in tomorrow's final.
Semifinal Two had the British aiming to stamp their authority. Great Britain finished third at the World Rowing Cup in Aiguebelette and they are aiming for a brighter medal on the Rotsee. With Great Britain in the lead, Germany, Australia and two Italian crews tried to catch them. Great Britain kept a high rating and stayed in the lead.
In the final sprint, Great Britain was rating 44 and held the lead. Australia remained in second and Italy Two gave their selectors something to think about by qualifying for the A-final and also beating their number one crew in the process.
Qualifiers: NZL. DEN, FRA, GBR, AUS, ITA2