The best single scullers in the world fight to be in Olympic finals
As the rain fell on Rio’s Olympic Rowing Regatta Course, the fastest men and women scullers in the world raced to keep their Olympic medal hopes alive in the semifinals. The men’s and women’s single sculls featured Olympic and World Champions and the results showed that former standings did not always guarantee success.
Men’s Single Sculls (M1x) – Semifinals
Leading the way at the very start of Semifinal One was Croatia’s Damir Martin. But the reigning World Champion and London Olympic silver medallist, Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic then picked up the pace and got his nose in front of Martin. Synek has taken silver at the last two Olympics and gold is the only colour he wants at this Games. Martin, who had watched his team mates win gold in the men’s double sculls yesterday, was not letting go of Synek. Meanwhile Cuba’s most successful rower of all time, Angel Fournier Rodriguez, had slotted into third.
Synek and Martin remained neck-and-neck to the line with Synek crossing first. Fournier just hels off a very fine effort by Juan Carlos Cabrera of Mexico. Cabrera will have to return to race in the B-final.
Semifinal Two featured the reigning Olympic Champion, Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand. Drysdale met Synek in the quarterfinals a couple of days ago and he must have been relieved to have what could be considered the easier semi. But sitting next to Drysdale was late qualifier Hannes Obreno of Belgium. Obreno is relatively new to racing in single sculling A-finals, but he has been showing huge promise. Earlier this season he beat Drysdale at the Henley Royal Regatta in Great Britain.
Drysdale does not always lead early in the race. Today he did and kept his lead for the entire race. Behind him a huge battle went on between Obreno and Stanislau Shcharbachenia of Belarus. The battle went to a photo finish. Shcharbachenia had just beaten Obreno to the line. They will meet again in the final on Saturday.
Results: CZE, CRO, CUB, NZL, BEL, BLR
Women’s Single Sculls (W1x) – Semifinals
In 2014 Emma Twigg of New Zealand was the World Champion. In 2015 Kim Brennan of Australia was the World Champion. Brennan had dominated throughout this season and last season. These two scullers lined up today in Semifinal One. Brennan, who took bronze in this boat class at the London Olympics, got away the quickest. Jeannine Gmelin of Switzerland chased hard with Twigg on the pace. Both Gmelin and Twigg trained together in New Zealand through the off season and as the race progressed these two scullers were matching each other by stroke rate and speed. Brennan remained out in front through the body of the race with Gmelin and Twigg hanging on. Brennan saw the two boats moving behind her and took no chances. The Australian kept the power on and her rating high.
Then in the final sprint Twigg decided it wasn’t enough just to qualify for the final. She wanted first. Twigg changed gears and closed on Brennan. Brennan, who had been enjoying a boat length lead, reacted. The two Antipodean crews were fighting for the line. On the surge Brennan got there first. Twigg qualified from second and Gmelin was third.
Magdalena Lobnig of Austria, the reigning European Champion, shot away in Semifinal Two taking command over the Olympic Champion, Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic as London Olympic silver medallist Fie Udby Erichsen of Denmark sat at the back of the field. Then last year’s fourth place finisher, Genevra Stone of the United States did a push which propelled her ahead of Knapkova and into second. There was now nothing between Stone and Lobnig with Stone looking like she was continuing to gain.
Now Jingli Duan of China began to more. Duan was bronze at last year’s World Rowing Championships and coming into the final sprint she had inched ahead. But Lobnig and Stone were both moving with her. Where was Knapkova? In the closing sprint Duan had done it. China is in the final along with Stone and Lobnig. The Olympic Champion was out of the running. Duan’s time of 7:43 was the fastest qualifying time.
Results: AUS, NZL, SUI, CHN, USA, AUT