World Best Times tumble in Paralympic rowing heats
A stunning performance by adaptive rowing newcomer, Cheng Huang of China saw a new World Best Time being set during the heats on day one of racing at the the London 2012 Paralympic Rowing Regatta.
Using the direct tailwind conditions Huang set the record in the AS men’s single sculls earning him a spot in Sunday’s final. But Huang was just the first. In the next heat, the TA mixed double sculls, France set a new World Best Time only to have it broken in the following heat by the Chinese.
Then in the LTA mixed coxed four Germany rowed a race from the front to set a new World Best Time by over five seconds.
Rowers on the Eton Dorney regatta course race over a distance of 1000m in sunny but cool conditions with the tailwind causing bobbly water.
AS Women’s Single Sculls (ASW1x) – Heats
The first boat in each heat would qualify directly for the A-final and in Heat One Claudia Santos of Brazil led the way using a 49 stroke rate. In these tail wind conditions Santos crossed the half-way point in 2:47. Santos competed in this event at the 2008 Paralympic Games where she finished sixth. She has been a regular in this event and last year finished fifth at the World Rowing Championships. But Liudmila Vauchok of Belarus was storming through and, coming into the final sprint, she took the lead over Santos.
Vauchok, who won silver at the 2008 Paralympic Rowing Regatta and who is also a multi Winter Paralympic Champion, remained in the lead and became the sole qualifier for Sunday’s final finishing in a time of 5:40.21. Santos, in second, will have to try to qualify for the final through the repechage.
Heat Two featured reigning World Champion Alla Lysenko of Ukraine and she demonstrated what makes her a champion by coming out at the start to settle at an impressive 54 strokes per minute. This pace gave Lysenko, who is a professional athlete, a handy two-second lead with just 250m rowed. Lysenko continued to move away from her competition and through the middle of the race she had gained an open water margin. Last year’s world silver medallist, Nathalie Benoit of France seemed unable to do anything from back in second.
Lysenko kept the power on and left nothing to chance crossing the finish line with a huge ten-second margin. Lysenko goes to the final with easily the fastest qualifying time.
Qualifiers: BLR, UKR
Alla Lysenko (UKR)
"I don't like it when people call me a leader, a favourite. Nobody knows about Sunday because it could be hard today and easy in the final, or easy today and hard in the final. It's unpredictable."
Moran Samuel (ISR)
"The wind was kind. It was in the right direction, but sometimes it can be too strong for the oars and I must get used to this. My target is to win tomorrow (the repechages)."
Nathalie Benoit (FRA)
"Coming second was forseeable. I haven't had the chance to do 1000m here and Alla (LYSENKO, UKR) was in a different league. The conditions were good, perfect for me. It's fantastic that there is a big crowd here. It warmed my heart to have the support of the French crowd. It pushes you for the last few metres. You want to push. My parents and uncle are here, they are also rowers."
Liudmila Vauchok (BLR)
"My plan was just to get straight to the final and to not do the repechages. It was better to give my all to get to the final. I have a 7-month-old baby and tomorrow it's my baby's birthday. For the final, I will ask that God will help me."
Claudio Santos (BRA)
"I wish I had won so I could rest tomorrow. Unfortunately it didn't work out. I am sure tomorrow everything will be OK. I was sixth in Beijing (2008), now I want a podium finish. Of course everyone wants to win but the colour of the medal doesn't really matter for me. I feel more prepared than in Beijing."
AS Men’s Single Sculls (ASM1x) – Heats
Heat One saw Luciano Luna De Oliveira of Brazil take the field by storm and lead at the start. This was despite being up against the unbeaten World and Paralympic Champion, Tom Aggar of Great Britain. But Luna De Oliveira started to pay dearly for his fast start. With 300m rowed Aggar took over in the lead using a 36 stroke rate with Korea’s Jun-Ha Park slotting into second.
At the half-way point margins remained tight with three boats remaining well within striking distance of Aggar. Then Aggar showed his superior strength and power and moved away from the field to take an open-water lead. This is what the crowd had come to see and spectators at the Eton Dorney regatta course voiced their appreciation. At the line Aggar had taken an easy victory to secure a place in Sunday’s final. Park crossed the line in second but will have to return for the repechage on Saturday.
Cheng Huang of China leapt out into the lead in Heat Two. Huang only started competing internationally this year and in his first race, Italy’s Gavirate Regatta, Huang won. Despite being in just his second year of rowing Huang was making easy work of this heat and coming into the final sprint he had worked up to just over a boat-length’s lead with Russia’s Aleksey Chuvashev following in second. In the final sprint Chuvashev, who finished with world silver last year, had closed the gap on Huang but remained in second. Huang, 30, had earned a position in Sunday’s final and also set a new World Best Time. Huang’s time of 4:45.02 was more than four seconds faster than the previous time set by Aggar in 2010.
Qualifiers: GBR, CHN
Tom Aggar (GBR)
"It went to plan. I went out hard in the first half and could cruise to the finish. I am not fazed by the conditions. Choppy waters can be difficult but everyone is in the same boat. On Sunday, I just want to go out there and produce my personal best."
"I have trained hard (for the World Best Time). Rowing means a lot in my life. I am happy to compete in my first Paralympics."
Luciano Luna de Oliveira (BRA)
"The Brit (Aggar) is a very good athlete. Congratulations to him but now I am going strong for the repechage to get a spot in the final.This place is so beautiful. It will be part of my history forever."
TA Mixed Double Sculls (TAMix2x) – Heats
The six boats in Heat One all aimed to finish first as that would give them a direct path to Sunday’s final. Coming into the race Perle Bouge and Stephane Tardieu of France must have been the favourites after finishing second at the World Rowing Championships last year. But it was Great Britain’s Nicholas Beighton and Samantha Scown who had the early lead with the French fighting hard. Through the middle of the race Great Britain and France remained locked together, Great Britain just a slight half-second margin up on France.
Bouge and Tardieu then did a big push and coming into the last 250m they had gained a tiny edge over Beighton and Scown. The tight duel continued to the line with Australia’s Gavin Bellis and Kathryn Ross also very much on the pace. Then Bouge and Tardieu pulled out an unbeatable sprint, breaking away from Great Britain. Bouge and Tardieu had set a new World Best Time. The new time of 4:00.00 was nearly two seconds faster than the time set by China at last year’s World Rowing Championships.
What would the reigning World Champions, Xiaoxian Lou and Tianming Fei do in Heat Two? Lou and Fei finished first at last year’s World Rowing Championships in their first international race together. They have some big shoes to fill as China won this event four years ago at the Beijing Paralympic Games. Today Fei and Lou got out in front at the start and settled at a 36 stroke rate. But their lead was marginal. Both the United States and Italy were chasing extremely hard.
Fei, who is a full-time athlete and Lou, who is a housewife, then managed to get some space leaving Italy and the United States to carry out their own battle for second. Coming into the last 250m of the race Fei and Lou had built up a very handy leading margin. Under no pressure to really sprint to the line they still maintained a solid stroke rate.
Fei and Lou had broken the four-minute threshold and smashed the World Best Time, set just 15 minutes earlier, by over five seconds. The new time: 3:54.92. China had earned a spot in the final and a place in World Best Time history. The United States rowed a very admirable race to finish second, but they will have to return for tomorrow’s repechage.
Qualifiers: FRA, CHN
Perle Bouge (FRA)
"We applied what our trainer told us to do and it worked. We were pleased to beat the British. They had the crowd support and we used it. This win gives us confidence. It's great to get a good lane. It will be just mental. It's all in the head."
Nicholas Beighton (GBR)
"I have not raced in a while so it was good to get one under my belt. We have a few more things to work on but we have definitely got more to come."
SAmantha Scowen (GBR)
"The noise in the last 500m was incredible. I've been to two world championships and I have never heard a crowd like it. It was insane."
Kathryn Ross (AUS)
"We are not disappointed. It went to plan but we will go harder in the repechages. Six weeks out of a boat is not ideal but we did the best we could and are happy. The crowd are fantastic. You can hear the roar. It makes you forget the pain. You just want to make them proud."
Oksana Masters (USA)
"I think we did a good race. China did a really good race as well. We wanted to stay with everyone in the first 500m and then push on. We have got to be faster and stronger tomorrow (in the repechages)."
LTA Mixed Coxed Four (LTAMix4+) – Heats
The formula in the coxed four was also one of two heats with the first-placed boat in each heat qualifying directly for Sunday’s final. All other boats would have a shot at advancing through Saturday’s repechage.
Germany raced into the lead in Heat One and by the middle of the race they had established a very handy lead over Ukraine in second. Germany finished third at last year’s World Rowing Championships and then went on to take silver at the Samsung World Rowing Cup in Munich in June. This was the last international race for adaptive rowers before these Paralympic Games.
Germany has had quite a reshuffle from their 2011 crew with just Anke Molkenthin and coxswain Katrin Splitt still in the boat here at Eton Dorney. This didn’t stop the crew come flying down the course and, despite their handy lead and not really looking pushed, Germany crossed the line in a time that meant they had become the owners of the World Best Time. Molkenthin along with Astrid Hengsbach, Tino Kolitscher and Kai Kruse had set the time at 3:15.91, over six seconds faster than the previous World Best Time which was set in 2010 by Canada.
World Champions Great Britain were up next in Heat Two. The grandstand looked ready to will this local crew down the course in a fast time and Great Britain delivered. The British must have heard that World Best Times were up for grabs as they came flying out of the start and looked in no way like they were going to settle and enjoy their lead. The United States followed in second with France close to the Americans in third.
Great Britain then settled down coming into the second half of the race and looked content just to row it out to the finish. Great Britain had qualified for the final with a time of 3:23.59 – a respectable time but well off the time of Germany in heat one.
Qualifiers: GER, GBR
Pamela Relph (GBR)
"Germany won the other heat and posted a good time - we always knew they were going to push us. You can get too wrapped up in how other boats are doing. It was just a case of executing our race plan."
Lily van den Broecke (GBR)
"I've never had to turn the microphone up past halfway before today. I just needed them to hear me. It was incredible."
Emma Preuschl (USA)
"We stick together as a crew. We just had to execute, that's what we came here to do. We had targets, it was good. The repechage is a good way to prepare for the final. For us it's just really another way to come together. One mind, one team."
Mahila Laura Maria di Battista (ITA)
"It was the first race for everyone as a team. We are excited. The race was good. We are feeling positive for the repechages. The crowd is wonderful. You can hear them when you are rowing and they push you"
Anthony Thereiault (CAN)
"It was a good race. It has been four years coming and it was nice to finally get on the starting line. It was difficult to keep my head in the boat because I kept wanting to look round at the start. It was great to see friends that we have known for years. It is just great to be competing at this level. We always seem to fight with America but we love them really."