The big eights race the World Rowing Championship heats
This was a mixed day of racing at the World Rowing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. The day opened with para heats and then moved through repechages, preliminary races and more heats featuring the men’s and women’s eight. Today’s rowers enjoyed almost flat water with a slight ripple created by a small tail wind.
Para PR1 Women’s Single Sculls (PR1 W1x) – Heats
This boat class had two heats and the goal was to finish first for a direct path to the final. First to feature in Heat One was opened with Moran Samuel of Israel in the lead. Samuel took silver at last year’s World Rowing Championships and this is her first major international race since then. Then Hallie Smith of the United States started to put some pressure on and she managed to close the gap that Samuel had created. Smith is in her second year of rowing and in that time she has already competed at last year’s World Rowing Championships. Smith kept the pressure on, but Samuel looked to have enough of a lead to keep the edge over Smith. Samuel crossed the finish line rating 37 and looking in control. Samuel had struck a new World Championship Best Time of 10:58.15. This meant the World Best Time, owned by Birgit Skarstein of Norway was still safe.
The World Champion, Birgit Skarstein of Norway absolutely annihilated the field in Heat Two. By the first 500m mark Skarstein had a 14 second lead over Anila Hoxha of Italy who was in second. Hoxha had a handy lead over Canada’s Tracy van Asseldonk who sat in third. Skarstein used the rest of the race to move further away from everyone else and was on track to take Samuel’s World Championship Best Time. Hoxha also had managed to break clean away from van Asseldonk but was too far back to challenge Skarstein. In the close of the race Skarstein rated 35 and won in a time of 10:26.38. A new World Championships Best Time and just two seconds outside of the World Best Time.
Qualifiers: ISR, NOR
Women’s Eight (W8+) – Heats
Two heats lined up in this boat class with the goal of finishing first for a direct path to the final. The United States sat in the centre lane of Heat One. The US had a winning streak that began in 2006 and went through to 2016. Then in 2017 Romania became the World Champions with Canada also beating the US. Today the United States looked ready to go for the top again. They led the way at the start with China chasing hard in second. Then the Dutch picked up the pace and with the US in first, China and the Netherlands went through the middle of the race neck-and-neck.
Coming into the final sprint the US held a three second lead over the Netherlands who had gotten the better of China. The Dutch tried to close on the US who went into the final sprint at a 37 stroke rate with the Netherlands at 40. The US crossed the line in a time of 5:56, just two seconds outside of the World Best Time.
Heat Two featured the reigning World and European Champions, Romania. They sat next to New Zealand who medalled at last year’s World Rowing Championships. Romania was the fastest at the start in the first few strokes with New Zealand pacing them and Australia and Great Britain right there as well. Australia got to the first 500m mark with a very slight lead. Then the Australian’s really powered on the pressure and managed to get a half boat length over New Zealand in second. New Zealand went to 39 to stay ahead of the close challenge by Great Britain. With Australia still in the lead just two seconds separated the chasing boats. This was going to be a big sprint. Australia was at 38 and held off a flying Great Britain. Australia had qualified for the final.
Qualifiers: USA, AUS
Men’s Eight (M8+) – Heats
This boat class had two heats and the aim was to be a top two finish for a direct path to the final. In Heat One the United States led the way and they were still ahead at the 750m mark and they looked like they had the best speed. The US took silver at last year’s World Rowing Championships and they are now coached by the legendary Mike Teti. Australia and Great Britain followed neck-and-neck in second. The Americans did another push as Australia really started to move. Australia broke away from Great Britain and overtook the United States.
It was all on for the final sprint. Australia was at 45 and the US went from 41 to 43. A photo finish! The US had won on the final stroke and set a new World Championship Best Time of 5:19.20. This broke a 12-year-old Best Time and was just a second outside of the World Best Time. Australia was just 0.05 of a second behind.
The World Champions, Germany raced in Heat Two and at the start they battled with Romania who looked like their settling stroke rate was 43. Germany was at 42 and got to the 500m mark in first. Germany then looked to be stamping their name on the race and they moved out to a three second lead over Romania by the half way point. Romania, in second, was far from safe. Less than a second separated them from the Netherlands and Italy. Then the Dutch did a third 500m piece and got into second with Italy also getting ahead of Romania. Italy then came up level with the Netherlands.
Germany, in the lead, went to 40 with a photo finish going for second. Italy, who rated 46 at the end, got there first and grabbed the second qualifying spot.
Qualifiers: USA, AUS, GER, ITA