Synek and Drysdale meet in quarterfinals at Rio rowing regatta
The two best single scullers in the world, Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic and Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand met in the quarterfinals of the Rio Olympic Rowing regatta on day three of racing. This gave a taste of what may happen later in the week as boats headed through the next round of racing on the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Rowers today enjoyed a very small tail wind on bobbly water with temperatures in the high 20s on this Brazilian winter day.
Men's Single Sculls (M1x) - Quarterfinals
Quarterfinal One featured Cuba's rowing medal hope, Angel Fournier Rodriguez. Just shy of 2m tall and 100kg, Fournier is a powerful rower. He was the first Cuban to win a World Championship medal in rowing with silver at the 2013 World Rowing Championships and bronze in 2014. Fournier settled into a 35 stroke rate pace with Australia's Rhys Grant following in second. Grant was a late Olympic qualifier having done it through the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in May. Coming through to the final sprint Fournier had a handy lead with Grant comfortably in second and Norway's Nils Jakob Hoff solidly in the third and final qualifying spot. Fournier was able to do a rather cruisey 29 stroke rate at the end to secure his position.
Taking up the two middle lanes in Quarterfinal Two was the World Champion Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic and Olympic Champion Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand. These two athletes are likely to be vying for gold in this Rio Olympics rowing regatta so to see them meet in the quarterfinals gave a taste of what was to come. It also meant the rest of the field was essentially racing for the one remaining qualifying spot. Synek got away the quickest with Drysdale following closely in second. Drysdale then did a push and going through the third 500m, the Kiwi took the lead. Synek must have decided not to push it at that pint and the two best scullers in the world cruised their boats through the closing stages of the race. Winning the battle for the remaining qualifying spot was Stanislau Shcharbachenia of Belarus. The Belarusian has had inconsistent results but has often been a A-finalist in this Olympic cycle.
A false start saw Quarterfinal Three return to the starting blocks. The second start got away cleanly with Egypt's Abdelkhalek Elbanna leading the way. Following in second was later qualifier Hannes Obreno of Belgium. After qualifying at the last chance qualification regatta in May, Obreno went to the Henley Royal Regatta in Great Britain where he beat Drysdale in the two-boat final. Obreno worked his way into the lead over Elbanna and then proceeded to move away from the rest of the field. Elbanna hung on to second with Juan Carlos Cabrera of Mexico in a clear third position. Cabrere is known for his impressive pace on the indoor rowing machine and he used this power in the final sprint to overtake Elbanna and close on Obreno. Hungary made a huge closing push, but the three leaders all managed to hold off the Hungarian.
In the middle lane of Quarterfinal Four was London Olympic bronze medallist Alan Campbell of Great Britain. Campbell, however, has not had very positive results in the lead up to Rio and instead it looked like Damir Martin of Croatia may be the hot prospect in this race. Martin took silver in the men's quadruple sculls at the London Olympics. The quad then disbanded due to injury and Martin moved into the single. He is the current European Champion and has proved to be a dab hand in this boat class. Martin was the early leader with Campbell following in second. Then came Poland's Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk and Dattu Bhokanal of India. Martin remained in front through to the final sprint with Campbell slotting into second. Meanwhile Wegrzycki-Szymczyk had broken away from Bhokanal making the top three qualifying boats clear cut. Martin's time of 6:44 was the fastest qualifying time and just two seconds outside the Olympic Best Time.
Qualifiers: CUB, AUS, NOR, NZL, CZE, BLR, BEL, MEX, EGY, CRO, GBR, POL
Women's Single Sculls (W1x) - Quarterfinals
The Olympic Champion Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic sat next to 2014 World Champion Emma Twigg of New Zealand in Quarterfinal One. Knapkova has had an inconsistent lead up to these Olympics while Twigg, who finished fourth in London, is somewhat of an unknown factor after taking 2015 off from rowing. Twigg qualified very easily at the Final Olympic qualification regatta and indicated that her speed was impressive. Mexico's Kenia Lechuga Alanis got away quickly before Knapkova pushed out into the lead. But by the half way point it was all about Twigg. The New Zealander not only got into the lead but also began to push clean away from the rest of the field. This put Knapkova into second with Lechuga following in third. As Twigg settled into a 30 stroke rate pace, Lechuga kept her stroke rate at 34 to hold third over Singapore.
The finishing order looked set coming into the final sprint with Twigg firmly in the lead and Knapkova firmly in second. The leading scullers did not need to sprint the finish and Twigg even looked like she was cruising in the closing metres.
Quarterfinal Two had the European Champion Magdalena Lobnig of Austria take off very quickly as the tail wind became stronger. Following very closely was Genevra Stone of the United States and Jeannine Gmelin of Switzerland. Stone was fourth at last year's World Rowing Championships and at her second Olympic Games, Stone has her sights set on a medal. Then Gmelin did a piece that got her to the 1000m mark the quickest with Stone now moving ahead of Lobnig. These three scullers had completely broken away from the rest of the field, holding their own battle out in front. Stone then took her stroke rate to 35 and got ahead of Gmelin. This Swiss sculler, now at 36, fought back leaving Lobnig behind. Stone reached the finish line first with Gmelin and Lobnig also qualifying.
The 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Fie Udby Erichsen of Denmark must have decided that Quarterfinal Three was hers to own. Erichsen took the lead ahead of Carling Zeeman of Canada and Micheen Thornycroft of Zimbabwe. Erichsen took time off after the London Olympics to have a baby and has been slowly building up for these Olympic Games. This race showed that she was very much on form. Meanwhile, behind Erichsen a huge fight was going on between Thornycroft, Zeeman and Michelle Pearson of Bermuda. This fight completely closed the gap on Erichsen with Pearson, rating 40, completely upsetting the field. At the line Pearson had missed out on qualifying for the next round by just 0.38 of a second. What a great finish for Bermuda.
The final quarterfinal, Quarterfinal Four had the reigning World Champion Kimberley Brennan of Australia featuring. Brennan struggled in the rough water three days ago during the heats, but she managed to get through to today's round and looked impressive as she led the first half of the race. Uber-rower Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus followed in second as she rowed her way through her Olympic Games number seven. This was quite a race for Karsten who lately has been rather slow in the first half of the race. World bronze medallist, Jingli Duan of China followed in third with Ireland's Sanita Puspure just a little bit back. Then it all went crazy, In the final sprint Puspure took her stroke rate to 38 and charged. This put Duan and Karsten under threat who both upped their stroke rate and closed on Brennan. It was four boats madly going for three spots. At the line Puspure had just missed out. Brennan's usual big wins had not eventuated. Just over one second separated the top three boats.
Qualifiers: NZL, CZE, MEX, USA, SUI, AUT, DEN, ZIM, CAN, AUS, CHN, BLR
Women's Pair (W2-) - Repechage
The last chance for these crews to make the semifinals was this race and Romania's Madalina Beres and Laura Oprea grabbed the opportunity and took the lead. Oprea is also racing in the women's eight and this week will be a huge racing schedule for her. But the crew of Beres and Oprea kept it all together and were still leading at the half way point. Meanwhile France's Noemie Kober and Marie Le Nepvou had moved into second ahead of Italy. With three boats to qualify it was starting to look sorted. But Canada had other ideas. Coming through to the final sprint Canada was still on the pace with Romania looking tired, but still in the lead. Then the Netherlands started a very gutsy sprint in the last attempt to qualify. The leading crews, however, did not change. Romania, Italy and France had qualified.
Qualifiers: ROU, ITA, FRA
Lightweight Women's Double Sculls (LW2x) - Repechages
The two repechages required crews to be in a top two position to get to the semifinals. Japan was the first to show in Repechage One with Ayami Oishi and Chiaki Tomita taking a rather handy lead. The United States followed in second. Then the United States crew of Devery Karz and Kathleen Bertko did a push and closed on Japan. Now moving into third was Charlotte Taylor and Katherine Copeland of Great Britain. Copeland is the reigning Olympic Champion when she won as a 22-year-old. In the final sprint the United States managed to get into first with the gutsy Japanese performance holding them in second. The Olympic Champions, Great Britain had missed out.
Repechage Two opened with a fight between Germany and Vietnam through the first 500m. The German crew of Fini Sturm and Marie-Louise Draeger then found themselves overtaken by Ionela-Livia Lehaci and Gianina Beleaga of Romania. With 500m left to row Lehaci and Beleaga had established nearly a boat length lead with Germany holding on to the remaining qualifying spot. Rating 34, Romania took their boat through to the finish line, the whole time keeping an eye on Germany and also a fast finishing Italian crew. Italy had left it too late. Romania and Germany were in the semifinals.
Qualifiers: USA, JPN, ROU, GER
Lightweight Men's Double Sculls (LM2x) - Repechage
The goal here was to be in a top two position for advancement to the semifinals. And in Repechage One of two repechages Turkey led the way with Cem Yilmaz and Huseyin Kandemir giving it their all. Then the Olympic Champions, Mads Rasmussen and Rasmus Quist of Denmark took over in the lead. Both Ramussen and Quist took time off after the London Olympics and it took until the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta to earn a spot for Rio. Quist and Rasmussen then showed some real Olympic form and the duo moved away from the field. China's Man Sun and Chunxin Wang followed in second with Turkey holding on in third. Then Cuba began to move. The duo of Raul Hernandez Hidal Go and Liosbel Hernandez of Cuba were moving on Sun and Wang. They had, however, left it too late. Denmark and China had managed to qualify.
Germany looked good at the start of Repechage Two. The young duo of Moritz Moos and Jason Osborne was out in front and by the first 500m mark they had a dominating position. Austraia's Bernhard and Paul Sieber followed in second and this order remained the same through the body of the race. Then Switzerland and Brazil realised they would have to do something special to get into the semifinals and upped their stroke rate. Austria, however, was ready and held off the challenges.
Qualifiers: DEN, CHN, GER, AUT
Men's Four (M4-) - Repechage
The aim in this one repechage was to be in a top three position. This would earn a spot in the semifinals. Four boats lined up. One would miss out. South Africa was unlucky to miss out on qualifying through the heats and they looked to be the crew to beat today. The crew of Hunt, Smith, Breet and Green for South Africa got away the quickest with Russia and Belarus following closely. South Africa still held the lead at the half way point. But the margins were close and both Belarus and Russia held the pace. Only Romania seemed a little off the pace. The race, however, proved to be far from over. In the final 500m the field closed up and a big sprint by Romania put Russia's place under threat. Russia, though, managed to hold them off. Romania had missed out in the semifinal by just 0.32 of a second.
Qualifiers: RSA, BLR, RUS