World Best Time of 21 years broken at Varese
Rowers treated the semifinals with all of the importance of a final at the World Rowing Cup in Varese, Italy. If they did not make it into a top three position that would be the end of their chances of racing in the final.
Luckily the weather at Lake Varese made it easy for the athletes. Warm, sunny conditions with just a breath of a tail wind breeze made for quick times. Quick enough for New Zealand's Zoe McBride to set a new World Best Time in the lightweight women's single sculls by a full four seconds.
Lightweight Men's Single Sculls (LM1x) - Semifinals
Max Roeger of Germany 1 was on fire in Semifinal One. The German had to go through yesterday's repechage to get to this semifinal, one more race that European silver medallist, Lukas Babac of Slovakia. Babac won his heat yesterday and must have been a bit more fresh than Roeger. By the middle of the race Babac had pushed into the lead, but Roeger was not letting him get away. In the final sprint Roeger attacked with a full-on 41 stroke rate sprint. It was just 0.20 of a second between them at the end. Babac had held Roeger off. Still it was semantics, both qualified for tomorrow's final.
Semifinal Two opened with Pierre Houin of France1 in the lead. Houin is having a great season so far as he has already struck gold when he became the European Champion last month. But today he was up against the reigning World Champion, Marcello Miani of Italy1. By the middle of the race Miani had closed on Houin and continued to close. Houin, however, was ready and in the final sprint the French sculler was able to push away from Miani to finish first. He will be joined in the final by Miani and Luka Radonic of Croatia who overtook Denmark to finish third.
Qualifiers: SVK, GER1, FRA2, FRA1, ITA1, CRO
Lightweight Women's Single Sculls (LW1x) - Semifinals
Semifinal One rewrote the history books when New Zealand's number one crew of Zoe McBride led all of the way to a new World Best Time. McBride, 19, is the reigning Under-23 Champion in the lightweight women's double sculls and this is her first year on New Zealand's senior team. She set the fastest time in the heats yesterday and today she came out on a mission to be quick. By the middle of the race McBride had a handy margin over Germany's Judith Anlauf with New Zealand 2 of Jackie Kiddle following in third. This order stayed the same with McBride building up a bigger and bigger lead ... all of the way to a new World Best Time and a new World Cup Best Time. McBride broke a 21-year-old record by four seconds, a record owned by Constanta Burcica of Romania for all of that time.
Semifinal Two had 2011 World Champion Fabiana Beltrame of Brazil in the lead at the start. Beltrame is aiming for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games so is hoping to get into the Olympic boat class, the lightweight women's double sculls. But for now Beltrame is racing the single and today with good results. Beltrame built up a handy margin over Runge Holmegaard of Denmark. Behind Holmegaard, in turn, had a large margin over Shuai Guo of China 1. This order did not change through to the line and so these are the scullers that will make up the final.
Qualifiers: NZL1, GER, NZL2, BRA, DEN, CHN1
Women's Pair (W2-) - Semifinals
The World Champions and world silver medallists lined up against each other in Semifinal One. Helen Glover and Heather Stanning, the World, European and Olympic Champions from Great Britian did their usual, get-out-fast-and-stay-in-the-lead tactic. Again it looked to be working and they built up to a three second lead by the half way point. The main challengers were Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast of New Zealand. Gowler and Prendergast are the reigning under-23 champions in this boat class. Coming into the final sprint Great Britain remained in front with the New Zealanders challenged by world silver medallists, Megan Kalmore and Kerry Simmonds of the United States.
In the final sprint, the Americans charged into second, moving up on the leading British and New Zealand stayed in third for the qualifying spot. Glover and Stanning set a new World Cup Best Time. The new World Cup standard is 6:53.04 - three seconds faster than the former time.
The United States number one crew of Eleanor Logan and Felice Mueller got away quickly in Semifinal Two. It earned them a large margin by the half way point with Poland in second. But margins were close among the crews behind Logan and Mueller and soon Denmark's Hedvig Rasmussen and Anne Andersen pushed into second. A huge finishing sprint by France with a 40 stroke rate pace got them ahead of Poland and into a qualifying spot.
Qualifiers: GBR, USA2, NZL, USA1, DEN, FRA
Men's Pair (M2-) - Semifinals
A beautifully timed race by Roel Braas and Mitchel Steenman of the Netherlands earned them a first place finish and a spot in the final. Braas and Steenman came together for this regatta when Steenman's partner couldn't race due to injury. Braas must be doing his job well. Behind them Australia got past the Czech Republic to take second and Great Britain2 qualified from third.
Italy 2 of Agamennoni and Montrone won Semifinal Two by coming through from the back of the field and picking off boats as they rowed down the Lake Varese regatta course. This pushed Italy 1 into second, the crew that had led for the majority of the race. And in third, much to the delight of the many United States supporters, was the US crew by a very slight margin over Germany in the last strokes.
Qualifiers: NED, AUS, GBR2, ITA2, ITA1, USA
Lightweight Men's Double Sculls (LM2x) - Semifinals
Despite having a great heat yesterday, Norway pulled out of Semifinal One due to illness. This opened up the way for Ruta and Michaletti of Italy to get out in front and remain there for the entire race. Behind the Italians Austria's Sieber brothers slotted into second and Germany and New Zealand followed very closely behind. This was going to be an incredibly tight race for second and third. Coming into the final sprint Italy remained in the lead. New Zealand went to 42 strokes per minute and Germany's Moritz Moos and Jason Osborne matched it. A photo finish at the line gave second to Moos and Osborne and third to the Siebers. New Zealand missed out by 0.25 of a second.
It was no surprise to see European Champions, Jeremie Azou and Stany Delarye of France in the lead in Semifinal Two. They had a dominating heats race yesterday and certainly look on form at this regatta. This left the remaining two qualifying spots to be fought over and it was Great Britain and the United States that looked to want it the most. In the final sprint, Great Britain's Richard Chambers and William Fletcher held on to second and the United States new combination of Andrew Campbell and Joshua Koniezcny earned the final qualifying spot. Azou and Delarye at the head of the field had recorded the fastest qualifying time.
Qualifiers: ITA, GER, AUT, FRA, GBR, USA
Lightweight Women's Double Sculls (LW2x) - Semifinals
Semifinal One had Katherine Copeland and Charlotte Taylor of Great Britain in the lead. But the lead was only slight with Fini Sturm and Marie-Louise Draeger right on their pace. At the middle point Copeland, who is the Olympic Champion in this boat class still had hear boat in front, but the Germans were pushing them hard. Then Great Britain 2 challenged for second and it looked like Draeger and Sturm were just hanging on to the line. And hang on they did. Despite Great Britain 2's continual challenges a harassed looking Sturm and Draeger held on for second.
At the line Copeland and Taylor had set a new World Best Time and World Cup Best Time of 6:48.38. They had beaten New Zealand's time that was set a year ago at the World Rowing Championships.
The New Zealand World Champion double of Sophie MacKenzie and Julia Edward lined up in Semifinal Two. But it was Dandan Pan and Wenyi Huang of China 2 that had the lead at the start. By the middle of the race MacKenzie and Edward had moved into the lead and that is where they remained until the end of the race. Pan and Huang held on to second with Germany and Sweden fighting it out for the third qualifying spot. Sweden's Emma Fredh and Cecilia Lilja got there first and they will move on to the final tomorrow.
Qualifiers: GBR1, GER, GBR2, NZL, CHN2, SWE
Lightweight Men's Four (LM4-) - Semifinals
France had a great heat yesterday recording the fastest qualifying time. Today they led the way in Semifinal One. Colard, Baroukh, Raineau and Solforosi of France won a silver medal at the European Championships last month. At the half way point France led the field with New Zealand pushing hard just behind them. In the final sprint New Zealand took their stroke rate to 45 with France at 44. On the last stroke France had got there first. Meanwhile behind the two leaders China 1 and Italy 1 took the race to a photo finish. China 1 qualified beating Italy 1 by just 0.14 of a second. France recorded the fastest qualifying time.
Great Britain medalled at the London Olympics and they are looking to get into the medals again next year. The crew has been reshuffled this year and they raced in Semifinal Two today. At the start Great Britain had the lead, but by the middle of the race the European Champions, Switzerland got into the lead. Coming into the line the Swiss crew of Schuerch, Gyr, Tramer and Niepman rated a relatively comfortable 37 while the stroke rates around them got into the high 30s. At the line Switzerland took first, Great Britain held on to second and China2 were third.
Qualifiers: FRA, NZL, CHN1, SUI, GBR, CHN2
Men's Double Sculls (M2x) - Semifinals
Croatia got away the quickest in Semifinal One. This is the first international regatta for the World Champion Croatian brothers of Valent and Martin Sinkovic as they come back from injury. Behind Croatia a virtual line formed between all other crews. By the middle of the race Croatia had a handy lead with the line behind them remaining between the five crews. Then Poland's Dominik Czaja and Maciej Zawojski broke away with Norway chasing hard. In the final sprint the Sinkovic brothers remained in a comfortable lead with Norway challenging Poland for second. The Poles took their stroke rate up and held off the 2013 World Champions, Nils Jakob Hoff and Kjetil Borch of Norway.
European Champions, Germany just missed out on qualifying after having a crew change due to illness.
After an early lead by Argentina in Semifinal Two, Australia's Alexander Belonogoff and James McRea took the lead. the Australians medalled last year at the World Rowing Championships and they have used Varese to debut their 2015 season. Then in the second half of the race everything changed. Great Britain took the led with Argentina, Italy and Australia in a virtual line. The sprint to the line was crazy. There was absolutely nothing between the top four boats and one would miss out.
In the frantic race to the line Murillo and Rosso of Argentina proved their worth by taking first by a bow ball. Italy's Battisti and Fossi took second and Australia just beat out Great Britain by 0.05 of a second to take the final qualifying spot.
Qualifiers: CRO, POL, NOR, ARG, ITA, AUS
Women's Double Sculls (W2x) - Semifinals
European Champions Poland led the way at the start of Semifinal One. By the middle of the race New Zealand and Australia were matching each other's strokes and were just a smidgen behind Madaj and Fularczyk of Poland. Then Stevenson and MacFarlane of New Zealand managed to shake off Australia and move up on Poland. In the final sprint the World Champions New Zealand finished first. Madaj and Fularczyk held on to second with Kehoe and Aldersey of Australia in third.
Great Britain had the lead in Semifinal Two a position that bow Katherine Grainger got very used to when she rowed this boat through to London Olympic gold. Along with Victoria Thornley, the British still had the lead with 500m left to row. But the lead was slight with Germany and the United States right on their case.
In the final sprint Meghan O'Leary and Ellen Tomek of the United States pushed through to first with Germany also overtaking Great Britain to take second. The British held on to third. Belarus had just missed out on the A-final by half a second.
Qualifiers: NZL, POL, AUS, USA, GER, GBR
Men's Single Sculls (M1x) - Semifinals
The fastest time from yesterday's semifinals was Olympic Champion, Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand and he lined up in Semifinal One. Today Drysdale got away at the very back of the field with Alan Campbell of Great Britain in the lead. But then Campbell ran out of steam with Germany's Philipp Syring now out in front. In a race that saw more changes than David Beckham's underwear, Syring then slipped back and Drysdale took over in the lead with Cuba's Angel Fournier Rodriguez in a solid second. These two top scullers then decided enough was enough and Drysdale and Fournier moved away from the rest of the field. This left the race on for third and Campbell, in his comeback year, showed his pedigree by pulling into third to qualify for the final.
European Champion and 2015 World Cup lead, Damir Martin of Croatia took over in the lead. But it was just a bow ball of a lead as Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic moving with Martin stroke for stroke. By the middle of the race Martin and Synek remained neck and neck. World Champion Synek regularly races a tactical race, sometimes playing a foxing game. Was he doing that today?
Coming to the line Martin and Synek remained locked together with Martin going for the sprint while Synek did not look like he'd lifted his stroke rate. Martin finished first, matching Drysdale's time, Synek held on to second and Stanislau Shcharbachenia of Belarus came through to take third.
Qualifiers: NZL, CUB, GBR, CRO, CZE, BLR