The tight race for Rio Olympic places
The 2015 World Rowing Championships in Aiguebelette, France came alive for the B-finals as coveted Rio Olympic qualification spots were up for grabs. This added a whole new dimension to racing as tight finishes created the theme for the day.
The conditions were cool with just a bit of a ripple in the waters of Lake Aiguebelette
Women's Pair (W2-) - B-final
Germany's Kerstin Hartmann and Kathrin Marchand just missed out on making the A-final, but they were not the quickest at the start today. That honour went to Poland's Anna and Maria Wierzbowski. Romania's Cristina Grigoras and Laura Oprea were also on the pace. Grigoras and Oprea are also racing in their nation's eight and as their women's eight did not qualify for the Olympic Games, there must be a lot of pressure on Grigoras and Oprea to finish in a top five position in this race to guarantee an Olympic qualification spot. One crew would miss out.
Romania then pushed into the lead as the boats came into the final sprint spread by five seconds. As all six boats went for those five important positions, the pack closed up completely. Romania led by a fraction rating 37. There was barely a couple of seconds between all of the boats coming through the last 200m. As Grigoras and Oprea crossed the line it was a flurry of blades. Poland had missed out.
Results: ROU, GER, NED, FRA, BLR, POL
Men's Pair (M2-) - B-final
The Olympic silver medallists, Germain Chardin and Dorian Mortelette of France only just missed out on making the A-final in their semifinal race and all eyes were on what France could do today. Mortelette rated 48 coming out at the start with the United States on 47. But it was South Africa that had the early lead. David Hunt and Shaun Keeling of South Africa then kept their rating high to keep their bow ball in front. Keeling raced in the A-final at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and was unlucky to miss out on the 2012 Olympics. Back again Keeling was not going to leave anything to chance for this qualification race.
The top five boats would get a Rio spot and with France now in second, the crowd was satisfied. In the sprint to the line South Africa remained in front, France held on to second, Michael Di Santo and Dariush Agahai of the United States grabbed third and it was Canada that did not quite have enough. All other boats were on their way to Rio.
Results: RSA, FRA, USA, ESP, ROU, CAN
Lightweight Men's Double Sculls (LM2x) - B-final
Less than a second denied Artur Mikolajczewski and Milosz Jankowski of Poland of making the A-final. They returned to race today. After the first 500m of racing the margins between the field was tiny. Just one second separated first to last with the United States' Andrew Campbell and Joshua Konieczny having a fraction of a lead. Campbell went for 2012 Olympic qualification but was very unlucky to miss out. He then went into the lightweight single to win a few medals before coming back into the double to aim for the Olympics. The US then got a half boat length lead with Austria's Paul and Bernhard Sieber in second. The Poles then did a burst and moved on the Americans. Again the field closed coming into the final sprint. There were five Olympic qualification spots available and six boats racing. Poland had now got ahead of the United States with Austria tearing down the side at a 43 stroke rate pace. Ireland, Switzerland and Greece were locked together. At the line Greece had missed out on Olympic qualification by just 0.23 of a second. Ireland had gotten lucky.
Results: POL, USA, AUT, SUI, IRL, GRE
Lightweight Women's Double Sculls (LW2x) - B-final
The semifinals saw both Russia and Ireland only just miss out on making the A-final. So they were back today to aim for a top five position which would give them an Olympic qualification spot. Poland's Joanna Dorociak and Weronika Deresz were the first to show with Ireland and China matching the Polish pace.
Ireland's stroke Sinead Jennings has a great story. The 39-year-old was former World Champion in the lightweight single and tried a couple of times to make the Olympics. She then had three kids, kept fit, tried to make the Irish Olympic cycling team and then came back to rowing. By the middle of the race Jennings and partner Claire Lambe had the lead and once there they pushed away from the field. This left a line to form behind the Irish and less than two seconds separated all of them. As the top five boats would qualify for the Rio Olympics, one boat would miss out.
Ireland then tried to open up a gap, but Cuiming Chen and Feihong Pan of China were having none of it. In the last 300m the entire field closed on Ireland with China, then Poland getting their nose in front. In survival mode the crews took their stroke rate into the high 30s and low 40s. There would be few of these competitors that would remember the final sprint. The United States crossed the line just ahead of Sweden, the Swedes missed out on Olympic qualification by just a fraction of a second.
Results: CHN, POL, IRL, RUS, USA, SWE
Men's Four (M4-) - B-final
The United States had a crew change earlier in the week due to illness. This maybe did not help their chances of making the A-final. But their original crew was back together with Charlie Cole returning to the boat. The US medalled at the London Olympics and they had high expectations for this boat. Today the goal was to be in a top five position to earn and Olympic qualification spot and the US was the first to show.
By the middle of the race the United States still had the lead. Margins remained tight and it only took two seconds for all boats to cross the 1000m mark. With 500m left to row, only Spain was a little off the pace. Russia attacked at 42 stroke per minute, the United States were on 41 and Belarus found another gear to hit 43 strokes per minute. Spain was unable to make it into the top five spots. They will have another chance to qualify for Rio next year.
Results: USA, BLR, GRE, RUS, ROU, ESP
Men's Quadruple Sculls (M4x) - B-final
This was the race to be first and second. These two spots would qualify their boat for Rio 2016. Ukraine and New Zealand were the next best following the semifinals earlier in the week. New Zealand missing out on the A-final by a fraction of a second. Ukraine are the reigning World Champions after their spectacular win in Amsterdam. Today they got away the quickest with Canada following in second and New Zealand having a rather bad start. Coming into the second half of the race New Zealand did a piece that brought them closer to the two leading crews that was still Ukraine and Canada. Then Poland put in a massive push and this brought them into the lead. This was a race about attack, then attack again.
The margins had now closed up. There were three boats - Poland, New Zealand and Ukraine - going for two spots. Ukraine had gained back the edge over Poland. But then Poland, rating 42, fought back. New Zealand were right there rating 44. Poland, the 2008 Olympic Champions, crossed the line. Second came down to a photo finish. New Zealand had missed out on Olympic qualification by just 0.05 of a second. Try measuring that. Ukraine was through.
Results: POL, UKR, NZL, ITA, CAN, USA