Tufte excels at last chance Olympic Qualification Regatta
The FISA European Continental and Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland began with the opening round of heats as rowers strove to keep their Olympic dreams alive. The heats saw close finishes and some particularly fast times including two-time Olympic Champion Olaf Tufte of Norway.
Racing in the men's double sculls Tufte and his partner, Kjetil Borch were not much more than ten seconds outside of the World Best Time when they won their heat. Ilse Paulis and Maaike Head of the Netherlands also recorded a very fast time in the lightweight women's double sculls. They finished just six seconds outside of the World Best Time.
Women's Single Sculls (W1x) - Heats
The three heats required a top three finish to get to the semifinals and Emma Twigg in Heat Three showed that she still has it. This is the first time Twigg has raced internationally since her 2014 World Championship win. She won in a time of 7:31 after leading for the entire race. Twigg was pushed at the start by British newcomer, Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne, but soon broke away to an open water lead.
In Heat One 2012 Olympian Sanita Puspure of Ireland was out in front at the start and remained there until the finish. Puspure made the 2012 Olympics by qualifying through this last-chance regatta and must be well prepared for the intensity of the racing. She has also started the season off well with positive results from the European Rowing Championships. Puspure beat six-time Olympian Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus to the line with 2012 Olympic Champion from the women's quadruple sculls, Nataliya Dovgodko of Ukraine in third.
Heat Two was won by Fie Udby Erichsen of Denmark. Like Puspure, Erichsen qualified for the London Olympics through this last chance regatta. She then went on to win silver in London. Erichsen had a very promising race leading the field from start to finish. Latvia's Elza Gulbe pulled through to second after a slow start that saw her work her way past Norway and Germany to get into a qualifying spot.
Qualifiers: IRL, BLR, UKR, DEN, LAT, GER, NZL, GBR, RUS
Men's Single Sculls (M1x) - Heats
The top two boats in each of the three heats would get to qualify for the semifinals directly. In Heat One Denmark's Sverri Nielsen started off back in third and worked his way through Israel and then Hungary to find the lead. Israel had a very fast start but then could not maintain it and will have to go to the repechage. Nielsen's time of 6:53 was the fastest qualifying time.
Olympian Cedric Berrest of France may not have been the fastest in the first half of Heat Two, but he timed the race perfectly and used negative splits to hit the finish line in first position. Berrest had to overtake the fast starting Paolo Perino of Italy and then Finland's Robert Ven to get into the lead. Ven did not make it easy for Berrest, however, and finished less than half a second behind the French sculler.
Heat Three opened with top lightweight sculler, Lukas Babac of Slovakia in the lead. Babac is a regular in the lightweight men's single sculls and recently medalled in this boat class at the European Rowing Championships. Today he remained out in front for the first half of the race before Hannes Obreno of Belgium took over in the lead. Once in the lead Obreno pushed away and to confidently win.
Qualifiers: DEN, HUN, FRA, FIN, BEL, SVK
Lightweight Women's Double Sculls (LW2x) - Heats
The two heats had the top boat only in each heat getting to go directly to the final on Tuesday. In Heat One Ilse Paulis and Maaike Head of the Netherlands rowed a very confident race at the head of the field. The Dutch duo managed to move further and further away from the rest of the field as the race progressed. They became the sole qualifiers and also recorded a fast time of 6:54 - just six seconds outside of the World Best Time.
The Swiss crowd at the Rotsee regatta course came alive with the ringing of cow bells for Heat Two. On the water Frederique Rol and Patriia Merz of Switzerland gave the audience what they wanted by leading from start to finish. Greece pushed the Swiss duo hard but never managed to overtake them.
Qualifiers: NED, SUI
Lightweight Men's Double Sculls (LM2x) - Heats
This boat class had three heats and the top three boats in each heat went directly to the semifinals. In Heat One the Olympic Champions from 2012, Rasmus Quist and Mads Rasmussen of Denmark indicated that they were back on good form. Quist and Rasmussen came out behind Greece, but then pushed into the lead and moved away from the field as the race progressed. The Greeks held on to second with Ukraine in third.
Belgium did very well at the European Rowing Championships earlier this month and it looks as if it has set them up well for this regatta. Belgium raced in Heat One. They finished first over Portugal and New Zealand in an extremely close finish.
At the start of Heat Three, Spain's Adria Mitjavila and Rodrigo Conde Romero were out in front with Turkey pushing hard. Hungary, who had been back in fourth for the majority of the race, did a huge sprint to bring themselves into a qualifying spot and push the race to a very close finish.
Qualifiers: DEN, GRE, UKR, BEL, POR, NZL, ESP, TUR, HUN
Women's Pair (W2-) - Heats
There were two heats in the women's pair and the aim was to be in first position for a direct path to the final on Tuesday. In Heat One Spain's Anna Boada Peiro and Aina Cid I rated high and put themselves into a winning position right from the start. They continued to rate high through most of the race and managed to hold off the entire field without burning out before the finish.
The fastest qualifying time was struck in Heat Two. Min Zhang and Tian Miao of China were not the fastest at the start but had better speed through the middle of the race followed by an awesome sprint to win the race over Italy.
Qualifiers: ESP, CHN
Men's Pair (M2-) - Heats
The three heats in the men's pair required these crews to finish in a top three position for a direct path to the semifinals. In Heat One Turkey shot out very quickly and held the lead for the first half of the race before they seemed to run out of steam. This gave Russia's Georgij Efremenko and Ivan Podshivalov the opportunity they'd been looking for and they pushed into the lead. Belarus tried to keep up with the Russians and in the process got ahead of Croatia. This order remained the same until the line with Russia recording the fastest qualifying time overall.
Heat Two was all about Germany. Peter Kluge and Clemens Ernsting of Germany led from start to finish and really were not challenged by Poland in second. Chile followed closely in third and the order did not change to the line. Surprisingly Hungary's Adrian Juhasz and Bela Simon were at the back of the field. Hungary won the European Rowing Championships earlier this month and they must have decided not to put their energy into this race.
Heat Three was dominated by Jakub Podrazil and Lukas Helesic of the Czech Republic. These two got away quickly at the start and held off Argentina in second for the entire race. Meanwhile Moldova and Finland had a two-boat battle at the back of the field. Finland was then able to break away and grab the third and final qualifying spot.
Qualifiers: RUS, BLR, CRO, GER, POL, CHI, CZE, ARG, FIN
Women's Double Sculls (W2x) - Heats
There were two heats in the women's double sculls and the rule here was to be in a top two position for a direct path to Tuesday's final. Heat One opened with Kristyna Fleissnerova and Lenka Antosova of the Czech Republic in the lead. Antosova is a well-known name from her junior days and also a stint rowing in the double with her sister. But she hasn't been seen so much lately. She is now back and with Flessnerova they led for the entire race. Russia followed in second and managed to maintain that position right through to the last 500m. But then Russia could not hold off a very effective finishing sprint by Finland's Ulla Varvio and Eeva Karppinen.
The fastest qualifying time was recorded in Heat Two by Lisbet Jakobsen and Nina Hollensen of Denmark. The Danes were out in front at the start with the Netherlands chasing hard. The Dutch remained in second for the majority of the race, but then succumbed in the final strokes to Italy's Laura Schiavone and Giada Colombo. Italy was incredibly happy, the Netherlands were not. They had missed out on going directly to the final by just 0.19 of a second.
Qualifiers: CZE, FIN, DEN, ITA
Men's Double Sculls (M2x) - Heats
There were two heats with the top boat only in each heat getting to advance directly to the final on Tuesday. All Norwegian eyes were on Heat One as lining up in lane two were Olaf Tufte and Kjetil Borch. Tufte is a two-time Olympic Champion in the single sculls (2004 and 2008). He has been competing internationally for over two and a half decades and he just turned 40. But it was the Czech Republic that got away the quickest with Norway a little bit back. By the 1000m mark, the Czechs still had a slight lead. Then Norway really came into their own. Tufte, in stroke seat upped the stroke rate, kept the power on and pushed into the lead. The Norwegians then sprinted to the line at a 41 stroke rate pace which left a yawning gap back to the rest of the field.
Serbia dominated in Heat Two with a fast start and an even-paced middle 1000. Serbia's Marko Marjanovic and Andrija Sljukic have not raced internationally together since last year's World Rowing Championships. Marjanovic has been studying and rowing in the United States and Sljukic, 20, raced to second in the men's single at the 2015 World Rowing Under 23 Championships. Together they finished first and recorded a time just one second slower than Tufte and Borch.
Qualifiers: NOR, SRB
Men's Four (M4-) - Heats
There were two heats with the top boat in each heat earning a spot directly in the final. Heat One featured France who recently got a huge confidence boost when they medalled at the European Rowing Championships earlier this month. Today, France led from the beginning under threat from Spain. Going through the middle of the race, Spain was less than half a second down on France and hung in there coming into the final sprint. France, however, had timed their race better and were able to sprint away from Spain to qualify. France recorded the fastest qualifying time.
In Heat Two, South Africa featured at the head of the field. The South Africans finished sixth at World Rowing Cup I last month and they raced a very confident race today. By the first 500m mark, the South Africans had already earned over a boat length lead with Argentina having no answer. It was an easy win for Hunt, Smith, Breet and Green of South Africa.
Qualifiers: FRA, RSA
Lightweight Men's Four (LM4-) - Heats
This boat class had two heats and the rule here was to finish first only for a direct path to the final in Tuesday. In Heat One, Spain took a flying start to grab the lead with Greece the closest challengers. Then going through the middle of the race Greece picked up the pace and got their boat in front of Spain with Russia now chasing hard. As Spain dropped off the pace, Greece moved away with Russia in hot pursuit. At the line Greece had finished first and held off Russia and also recorded the fastest qualifying time.
Heat Two saw a fast start from Japan with Hungary and Germany following closely. Then the more experience German crew featuring Koch, Schaefer, Franzmann and Wichert pushed into the lead as Japan fell back into second. The Japanese crew tried to hold on bravely, but Germany was too strong and by the end of the race the Germans had a rather handy lead.
Qualifiers: GRE, GER
Women's Quadruple Sculls (W4x) - Heats
The top boat in each of the two heats would qualify for the final on Tuesday and in Heat One it was Ukraine that had the fastest opening pace. Ukraine took gold at the 2012 Olympic Games, but this crew is a new combination of rowers. Ukraine held on to the lead through the middle of the race before China (the 2008 Olympic Champions) got their nose in front and conducted a strong sprint to the line. Ukraine will have to now contest the repechage.
Heat Two opened with Great Britain in the lead. But there was not much in it and Romania and New Zealand followed very closely. Then in a very evenly-paced race, New Zealand was able to push into the lead with Great Britain unable to reply. The New Zealanders had qualified for the final.
Qualifiers: CHN, NZL
Men's Quadruple Sculls (M4x) - Heats
At the start of Heat Two it was China that held the lead with the United States and New Zealand holding the pace. By the middle of the race the United States had managed to get their bow ball ahead of China. The Chinese held on with New Zealand also trying to keep up. In the final sprint China had run out of steam leaving the United States and New Zealand to go neck-and-neck. In the final stroke New Zealand managed to get their bow ball ahead of the United States to finish first and secure the fastest qualifying time.
Russia won the 2004 Olympic Games and since then have been inconsistent contesters of this boat class. Today they gave it their best by leading from start to finish in Heat Two. The Russian boat includes Nikita Morgachev who has raced in the quad at two Olympic Games. Canada was in second for the entire race, but did not look to have the power to keep up with the Russians.
Qualifiers: NZL, RUS
Women's Eight (W8+) - Preliminary Race
Five countries have entered this boat class so heats were unnecessary. Instead these crews had to do a preliminary 'race for lanes'. This would decide how they would be ordered across the rowing course on finals day. Romania had a string of Olympic gold medals up until 2004 when the United States took over as the best women's eight nation. Romania takes pride in their women's eight and today they stepped up to finish first with the Netherlands in second. This will set the tone for Tuesday's final.
Finishing order: ROU, NED, AUS, GER, CHN
Men's Eight (M8+) - Preliminary Race
Like the women's eight there were five boats entered in this boat class. They lined up today to race for lanes in the final. The 2004 Olympic Champions, the United States pushed through to take first with Italy using a late sprint to grab the second place.
Finishing order: USA, ITA, AUS, POL, ESP