Top three the goal in Aiguebelette semifinals
The 2015 World Rowing Championships in Aiguebelette, France continued today with the final round of semifinals in the all important Olympic boat classes. These athletes' aim was to be in a top three spot to get into Sunday's final. It also kept their 2016 Olympic qualification hopes alive.
The water was a bit bobbly, the sun came and went and the temperatures were warm for these, the top rowers in the world.
Women's Double Sculls (W2x) - Semfinals
An initial burst by France did not last in Semifinal One with the World Champions, Eve MacFarlane and Zoe Stevenson of New Zealand pushing into first. Margins, however, were incredibly tight with the 2013 World Champions, Lithuania's Donata Vistartaite and Milda Valciukaite sticking closely with them. The spread at the half way point was oh so tight with less than two seconds separating the entire field. Then MacFarlane and Stevenson managed to get a slight margin, leaving Great Britain, Lithuania, China and the United States to remain locked together.
In the final sprint the New Zealanders rated 35 to keep their boat in front with Lithuania holding on to second and Katherine Grainger and Victoria Thornley of Great Britain grabbing the final qualifying spot. Disappointment for China and the United States who will go to the B-final.
The European Champions from Poland (Magdalena Fularczyk and Natalia Madaj) left the starting blocks just behind Greece. By the half way point, however, Poland had pushed into first with Greece now in the position to play catch up. With this challenge Aikaterini Nikolaidou and Sofia Asoumanaki of Greece grabbed the lead back. Asoumanaki is the indoor rowing junior World Record holder and she took silver last month at the World Rowing Junior Championships. Poland and Greece charged home together with Greece crossing just in front. Germany's Julia Lier and Mareike Adams took the third and final qualifying spot.
Qualifiers: NZL, LTU, GBR, GRE, POL, GER
Men's Double Sculls (M2x) - Semifinals
It was oh so close in Semifinal One. With the World Champion Croatians out in front from start to finish, a huge tussle went on for second and third between New Zealand, Australia and Italy. One crew was going to miss out. New Zealand's Robert Manson and Chris Harris were right in the mix, so were James McRae and Alexander Belonogoff of Australia as well as Romano Battisto and Giacomo Gentili of Italy. In the flurry to the line New Zealand rated 40, Australia was at 43 and Italy at 42. Italy missed out.
France took a flyer at the start of Semifinal Two. Hugo Boucheron and Matthieu Androdias have been having a great week. Could they continue it again today? By the middle of the race the German crew of Marcel Hacker and Stephan Krueger had squeezed into the lead. But margins remained tight with Lithuania and France right on their tails. Hacker and Krueger then showed that once in front they would be in control. The Germans moved away from the tussle that was going on between France and Rolandas Mascinskas and Saulius Ritter of Lithuania. Germany got to the line first with Lithuania, on 40 strokes per minute, taking second and a very happy France in third. The finishing times of Croatia and Germany turned out to be almost identical.
Qualifiers: CRO, AUS, NZL, GER, LTU, FRA
Lightweight Men's Four (LM4-) - Semifinals
Semifinal One was all about Denmark. The Danes took the lead at the start and focused on staying ahead of World Rowing Cup winners, New Zealand. But New Zealand had other ideas and stuck with Denmark through the middle of the race. China, the Netherlands and Austria also remained well within striking distance of the leaders. In the sprint to the line Denmark used a 42 stroke rate to stay in front with the Netherlands, at 40, able to edge ahead of New Zealand. These were the qualifying boats.
Switzerland took the lead in Semifinal Two. The Swiss raced in the A-final at the 2012 Olympic Games and then spent 2013 and 2014 racing in the lightweight pair and lightweight double. Now back together they have already taken World Cup gold this season. They slipped into a 36 stroke rate pace and worked their way to a very comfortable lead over Italy and France. This is how it pretty much panned out to the finish with France getting the better of Italy to take second. 2012 Olympic medallists, Great Britain had missed out, crossing the line in fourth.
Overall Switzerland had recorded the fastest qualifying time with a very fast 5:51.
Qualifiers: DEN, NED, NZL, SUI, FRA, ITA
Men's Single Sculls (M1x) - Semifinals
When Mindaugas Griskonis of Lithuania medalled at World Rowing Cup III in Lucerne, the men's single sculling field took notice. Today the gutsy Lithuanian led the way at the start over reigning World Champion, Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic. By the middle of the race Griskonis had built up a bit of a lead over Synek with Cuba's Angel Fournier Rodriguez now pushing into second. Fournier medalled at the last two World Rowing Championships, but he has been having a rather sluggish regatta so far.
These three scullers strode away from the rest of the field and by the 1500m mark the race looked sorted. Synek pushed through into second and none of these scullers felt any need to sprint the finish.
After an initial push by Israel, the 2012 Olympic Champion Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand moved out in front with 2008 Olympic Champion, Olaf Tufte of Norway the closest challenger. Then Tufte began to falter letting Drysdale get away with Damir Martin of Croatia now the second place holder. Martin was part of Croatia's successful men's quad and then injury broke the boat up putting Martin into the single. Tufte is one of the most popular athletes on the rowing circuit, but ever since his 2008 win he has not been able to find form. Today it looked like Tufte was back. In a flyer to the line Drysdale held 35, Martin was at 38 and Tufte was having the race of his life at 42. Tufte had done it. New Zealand, Croatia and Norway are in the final on Sunday.
Qualifiers: LTU, CZE, CUB, NZL, CRO, NOR
Women's Single Sculls (W1x) - Semifinal
Semifinal One opened with Magdalena Lobnig of Austria. Lobnig has shown to have a fast start. Could she hold it to the end? By the middle of the race China's Jungli Duan had moved into first. Duan medalled at last year's World Rowing Championships and has been consistent through the 2015 season. Following Duan closely was 2012 Olympic Champion, Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic.
Genevra Stone from the United States, who raced at the 2012 Olympics, now moved into third and tried to close on the leaders. Duan kept her stroke rate at 35 to stay in front. The longer stokes of Knapkova, rating 31, held her in second and Stone took third.
Kim Crow of Australia looked to remain unbeatable. Crow had taken a clear water lead with just 40 strokes rowed and at the head of the field she did what she's been doing all season - lead by a lot. Settling into a 31 stroke rate pace, could anyone catch the Australian? Behind Crow, Lithuania's Lina Saltyte, Switzerland's Jeannine Gmelin and Tatsiana Kukhta of Belarus formed a line to fight it out for second and third. Then Gmelin managed to get a slight edge, but she would still need to keep the pressure on to the line. This put pressure on Crow who upped her stroke rate to 34 to hold off the tussle going on behind her. A 39 stroke rate by Gmelin gave her second with Canada's Carleen Zeeman working her way through the field to snatch the third and final qualifying spot.
Qualifiers: CHN, CZE, USA, AUS, SUI, CAN