World Champs reveal first Olympic qualifying crews
The 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia opened today for day one of heats racing. By the end of the morning two boats had qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games. New Zealand and Germany had earned a spot in the women’s quadruple sculls. All other boats raced to advance to semifinals. In warm conditions rowers enjoyed a very slight tail wind and flat water.
Lightweight Men’s Single Sculls (LM1x) – HeatsThe aim here was to be in the top two spots for these crews to get a direct route to the semifinals. There were three heats of 18 countries entered in this international event. The opening race got off to a fine start with a show of smooth singles rowing. Pietro Ruta of Italy led for the majority of the race but a better finishing sprint by Andrew Campbell of the United States saw him take the win in the first heat of the World Rowing Championships. Campbell, 19, has already made history for his country by medalling in the single at the under 23 and junior level. Campbell and Ruta move directly to the semifinals.
Former World Champion, Duncan Grant of New Zealand overtook a fast-starting Turk, Huseyin Kandemir to lead heat two. Grant was the World Champion in 2007, 2008 and 2009 but failed to fire last year. Grant is hoping for better success this year. At the finish Grant qualified by remaining in first in his speedy black boat with Germany’s Jonathan Koch coming through in second. They will race again in Thursday’s semifinals.
World Cup winner Henrik Stephansen of Denmark sent out a very clear message to his competition from heat three. Stephansen led for the entire 2000m distance and despite being way out in front, Stephansen raced the clock finishing with a 39 stroke rate sprint and a time of 6.52 – the only boat to go under 7 minutes. Stephansen’s time was a huge 12 seconds ahead of the next fastest time (Campbell). Way behind the Dane, Kristoffer Brun of Norway qualified for the semifinal from second.
Men’s Double Sculls (M2x) – Heats
The aim for rowers in these four heats was to finish first to guarantee a direct path to the semifinals. This has turned into one of the most hotly contested event with a number of boats having the potential to pull off a gold medal. In heat one Germany’s Hans Gruhne and Stephen Krueger set the standard. This crew has had a rocky road to the start line. Krueger is the 2009 World Champion with Erik Knittel, but Knittel has been fighting injury and was not able to race in Bled. Instead Gruhne has seamlessly slotted into the boat and their first place finish not only gave them a spot in the semifinals but also put them ahead of 2008 Olympic Champions, David Crawshay and Scott Brennan of Australia.The crowd came alive for heat two as 2000 Olympic Champions from Slovenia, Iztok Cop and Luka Spik were racing. These two athletes are Slovenia’s biggest hope for a medal at this regatta and are also the nation’s most successful rowers. After overtaking the French, Cop and Spik got into the lead and held it to the end. Buoyed by the finish line crowd, Cop and Spik finished with a 41 stroke rate and there was no hiding their joy at their result. Spik saluted the crowd before rowing into the dock to meet their coach. The Slovenians go directly to the semifinals with the added psychological advantage of recording the fastest qualifying time.
Great Britain’s Matthew Wells and Marcus Bateman had a close battle with Estonia’s Allar Raja and Kaspar Taimsoo through to the third 500 of the race in heat three. Then the red-head British duo did a big piece, rating 38, to push away. Raja and Taimsoo were unable to counter it and Great Britain earned a spot in the semifinals on Wednesday.
In the fourth and final heat, reigning World Champions, Joseph Sullivan and Nathan Cohen of New Zealand overtook a fast starting Lithuania to move into the lead. Sullivan and Cohen are known for their aggressive, never-give-up, racing style and today was no exception. They crossed the line easily ahead of Norway to qualify directly for the semifinals.
Lightweight Men’s Four (LM4-) – Heats
The lightweight men’s four never fails to deliver when it comes to excitement, close racing and drama. With all crews weighing almost the same and often very similar in height, it is very much a level playing field on the 2000m race course. Today four heats lined up with the aim of finishing first to guarantee a direct path to the semifinals on Wednesday.
Heat one opened and reigning World Champions, Great Britain featured. But at the start it was South Africa in the lead. In the stroke seat for South Africa was 31-year-old Tony Paladin. Paladin raced regularly up until 2006, then stepped away from competitive racing, became a coach and set up a business. Last year Paladin came back to top level competition and he leads a younger crew with an unrelenting stroke style. This unrelenting style forced the British to settle for second through the first half of the race. Then the British put the pressure on to take the lead coming into the final sprint. At the line the British had earned the qualifying spot but not without a huge fight with the South African’s. South Africa will now have to return to race in the repechage on Tuesday.
In heat two France took an early lead. However, racing today has shown that those who lead at the start are very rarely in the lead at the finish and this was the case for France today. By the half-way point China had pushed into the lead. China won this event in 2006, but have not found the magic combination since with the 2011 crew of Huang, Yu, Li, and Zhang all different athletes from five years ago. Australia took up the chase to overtake China, but the Chinese held them off to earn a semifinal qualifying spot. China also earned the fastest qualifying time, but in this very close event, their time is only a quarter of a second ahead of the next fastest time, Italy.
The Italians were the boat to beat in heat three. Switzerland gave it a good shot and so did the Netherlands. Italy, however, was able to hold off every attack and coming into the finish Italy, rating 39, looked in control. Danesin, Caianiello, Miani and Goretti of Italy move on to Wednesday’s semifinals.
There seems to be no stopping Denmark’s 39-year-old Eskild Ebbesen. Ebbesen joined the crew this year after ‘retiring’ following Olympic gold number three at the Beijing Olympics. The return of Ebbesen saw the Danish crew finish with two firsts and a third from the three Rowing World Cups. The crew led heat four from start to finish demonstrating their style of accelerating through the drive and finishing the stroke strongly. Germany gave it a good shot to challenge the Danish, but Denmark held them off and qualify for the semifinals.
Lightweight Men’s Pair (LM2-) – Heats
The three heats in this event meant that a top two finish was necessary for a direct path to the semifinals. Racing in heat one saw a very tight battle between Australia and Italy. Italy’s Luca De Maria and Armando Dell’Aquila led at the start with Thomas Gibson and Blair Tunevitsch right on their coat tails. This battle remained through the middle of the race before Gibson and Tunevitsch pulled out a big piece and got their nose in front. Gibson has come back after a post-Beijing Olympic break while Tunevitsch raced last year in the lightweight eight and lightweight four. This is their first international race together. At the line Gibson and Tunevitsch had held on to first to qualify for the semifinal and with the fastest qualifying time, while Italy qualify from second.
In heat two 2011 under-23 champions, Peter Chambers and Kieren Emery of Great Britain led the way. By the half-way point the British had a solid lead and were able to relax and enjoy the feel of the race. Both Bulgaria and Canada tried to close the gap that Chambers and Emery had developed, but the British were able to keep an eye on any moves. Meanwhile the main battle was going on between Canada’s Timothy Myers and Morgan Jarvis and the Bulgarians. Both boats kept the pressure on until the finish with Canada getting there first. Both Great Britain and Canada qualify for the semifinals on Wednesday.
China (Zhongwei Li and Mingyang Liang) grabbed hold of the lead in heat three and looked determined to hold on to it. Germany, however, had other ideas. Bastian Siebt and Lars Wichert of Germany held diligently on to the Chinese and through the third 500 of the race they had nearly caught Li and Liang. But the Chinese continued to fight and through the final sprint Li and Liang hit a 42 stroke rate. At the line the commentator called a dead heat. The final time gave Germany the edge with a 1/100th of a second advantage. Both Germany and China earn spots in the semifinals
Women’s Pair (W2-) – Heats
This event required boats to finish in a top two position for a direct path to the semifinals on Wednesday. The first of three heats saw China’s You Wu and Yulan Gao take the initiative and grab the lead. Wu and Gao last raced internationally at the 2008 Olympic Games when they took an impressive silver in this event. They are back together and this race indicated that they’ve lost none of their 2008 speed. Gao and Wu were challenged by the United States (Caryn Davies and Katherine Glessner). Davies, like the Chinese, last raced internationally at the Beijing Olympics where she was part of the Olympic Champion eight. Paired up with Glessner, the duo remained in second throughout the race, never able to close the gap on the Chinese. Both China and the United States qualify for the semifinals, China recording the fastest qualifying time, albeit only just.
Last year’s silver medallists Helen Glover and Heather Stanning of Great Britain continued to show that they are still fast by finishing first in heat two. Glover and Stanning come to these championships having won the 2011 World Rowing Cup series. Glover and Stanning managed to establish such a handy lead that they did not have to sprint the finish. The duo were at a comfortable 28 stroke rate as they crossed the finish line. Also qualifying for the semifinal was Sarah Tait and Kate Hornsey of Australia. Tait rowed last year and earlier this season with Phoebe Stanley, but Stanley was very recently diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmia and has been replaced by Hornsey. Tait and Hornsey showed that they have what it takes to get to the final by finishing second.
The third and final heat featured reigning World Champions, Juliette Haigh and Rebecca Scown of New Zealand. Haigh and Scown have had a mixed season so far after finishing second to the British at the final World Rowing Cup in July. Today they looked comfortable in the lead and did not have to do their usual aggressive sprint to the finish. Behind the New Zealanders, South Africa followed in second. The young South African crew of Naydene Smith and Lee-Ann Persse had no other crews pressuring them and seemed very content to remain in second. Smith and Persse crossed the finish line at a low 30 stroke rate pace. New Zealand and South Africa qualify for the semifinals
Women’s Quadruple Sculls (W4x) – Heats
At the end of this event two boats will have qualified for the London 2012 Olympic Games. With two heats lining up, the top crew only got to advance directly to the final on Thursday and they would also be the first Olympic qualifiers for this regatta. The crews must have known this. In heat one, three crews went neck-and-neck for the entire 2000m race.
It takes about 260 strokes to row a race and for Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand those strokes remained tucked closely together. For most of the race Australia had the leading edge and they still remained just in front coming into the final sprint. But the race still had 500m left to go and New Zealand had upped their stroke rate to 42, giving it their all. It was just enough. At the line Sarah Gray, Louise Trappit, Fiona Bourke and Eve MacFarlane of New Zealand had qualified the women’s quadruple sculls for their country for next year’s Olympic Games.
The second heat was quite a different story. Winners of the final World Rowing Cup, Germany took the lead at the start and had already built up more than a boat length advantage with just 500m rowed. No other boat in this race could get anywhere close to the Germans who looked relaxed, long in the water and smooth. At the finish Julia Richter, Tina Manker, Stephanie Schiller and Britta Oppelt of Germany had qualified their boat for the 2012 Olympic Games and also earned a spot in the final. All other crews will get a second chance to advance through Tuesday’s repechage.
Louise Trappit, NZL: Qualifier
“This race was actually all about qualifying. We knew first place in this heat would qualify for the Olympics next year and we wanted to try to do whatever it takes in order to secure this spot. But we knew everybody else would be going for it as well and none of the other crews was going to give it to us easily. We managed to secure it on the last ten strokes. For the final this weight is off our shoulders now and we won’t have anything to lose. We’ll try to have the race of our life.”
Britta Oppelt, GER: Qualifier
“We wanted to have a good race and make it through to the final, but honestly the fact that first place would qualify the boat for the Olympics was not on the forefront of our minds. We are only realising this now and it’s definitely great to not only have qualified directly for the final but also the boat for the Olympics. It gives us a bit more security, but in the end it’s only the boat which qualified. Next year it will all be about the personal qualification and we’ll still need to step up for that. For the final I’m optimistic. I think we still have a bit more in us and we can still improve. But making it directly through to the final is great. I have never done it like this at a World Championship in the quad – rowing in the quad in the past I’ve always had to come through the repechage.”
Men’s Eight (M8+) – Heats
This blue riband event is one of the most popular in rowing and at the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled, 13 countries had entered. These 13 were divided into three heats with the top three boats in each heat earning a direct path to Wednesday’s semifinals.Heat one featured the 2008 Olympic Champions, Canada. The Canadians have been rebuilding their eight after a number of post-Beijing retirements and part of that rebuilding has seen the return of uber-cox, Brian Price. It has also seen the return of Malcolm Howard to the boat. Howard has spent the last couple of seasons in the single and made progress but never pushed into the medals. Coach Mike Spracklen decided the powerful Howard could be of better use in the eight. Today Canada led the race with the Netherlands and Ukraine following closely. Coming into the final sprint the Dutch had nearly caught the Canadians. The Netherlands rated 44 to Canada’s 42 and crossed the line just ½ a second apart – the advantage to Canada. Canada, the Netherlands and Ukraine qualify for the semifinals. Canada had also earned the fastest qualifying time with a very quick 5:29.83.
Germany has not lost a race since 2009 with a tally of 28 international wins in a row. They competed in heat two and, sticking to the pattern, the Germans led from start to finish. Throughout this season the German line up has been tweaked and changed with the final crew being, Hauffe, Kuffner, Johannesen, Reinelt, Schmidt, Mueller, Mennigen, Wilke and coxswain Martin Sauer.
Australia, in second, fought hard to stay up with Germany but had to also keep an eye on Poland who remained on the pace. At the line Germany, Australia and Poland had qualified for the semifinal – in that order. Germany’s time of 5:29.92 was just a fraction outside of Canada’s.
China led the way in heat three with Great Britain in hot pursuit. By the half-way point the Chinese had a fraction of an advantage over Great Britain while the United States remained very much in touch. The US was Olympic Champions in 2004 and also set the World Best Time then, but they have not found the top of the podium since. Coming into the final sprint it was a very close fight between China, the United States and Great Britain. Great Britain’s 40 stroke rate sprint had given them first, the United States came through in second and China qualified for the semifinal from third. Less than a second separated these three crews at the line.
Lightweight Women’s Single Sculls (LW1x) – Heats
A total of 20 countries lined up in this event and they were divided into four heats with the top two boats from each heat earning a spot in the semifinals on Wednesday. Heat one featured Tracy Cameron of Canada who is the reigning World Champion in the lightweight double. Cameron, however, recently suffered with back problems and chose to stay out of the double to put less pressure on her body. Today Cameron did just enough to be in second place to qualify for the semifinals. Leading from start to finish was Pamela Weisshaupt of Switzerland. Weisshaupt, in her 16 year international career, has one World Champion title and she continues to remain at the front of the field. Weisshaupt and Cameron both qualify for the semifinals, Weisshaupt crossing the line at a low 24 stroke rate pace.
Heat two finished with Katherine Copeland of Great Britain recording the fastest qualifying time… easily. Copeland, 20, came out of the woodwork this season and took the rowing world by storm by finishing second at the Munich World Rowing Cup. Then she won the under-23 single with ease. Today, Copeland not only finished first, she also recorded the fastest qualifying time of 7:47.88. This time was a big seven seconds faster than the next fastest time recorded by Brazil’s Fabiana Beltrame in heat four. Copeland qualified for the semifinal along with Ursula Grobler of the United States also qualifying from second.
The large Dutch contingent in the crowd made the most of heat three as their athlete, Marie-Anne Frenken was racing. Frenken came out at the start in fourth and remained there through the first half of the race. The fast starting Phuttharaksa Nikree of Thailand then started to run out of steam with Frenken able to move up through the field. With the help of the crowd Frenken then pushed into the lead to qualify for the semifinal. Behind Frenken, Poland’s Agnieszka Renc qualified from second.
The fourth and final heat was led by Fabiana Beltrame of Brazil. Beltrame finished fourth in this event last year and then went on to win a World Cup gold earlier this season in Hamburg. Today she led her race from start to finish. Behind Beltrame, Japan’s Akiko Iwamoto pushed through into second to qualify along with Beltrame. Iwamoto has spent most of her career in the lightweight double including three Olympic Games, but swapped to the single for this regatta.
Men’s Quadruple Sculls (M4x) – Heats
Four heats with the top two from each heat getting a direct path to the semifinals was the formula for this event. Coming into this event Germany looked like favourites after shining during the World Rowing Cup season. But the Croatians are the World Champions and they featured in heat one. Croatia took the lead at the start and did not give it up. Italy, on a 45 stroke rate, tried really hard to get ahead of the Croatia but David Sain, Damir Martin and the Sinkovic brothers looked together and in control. Both Croatia and Italy qualify for the semifinals. Unlucky for Switzerland who, despite their very good sprint, will have to return for the repechage.
Are the Russian’s back? At the Athens Olympics in 2004 the Russians won and ever since then they have been searching for another magical quad. They have retained Sergey Fedorovtsev from that gold medal crew and he sits in stroke seat. Today, in heat two, Russia grabbed the lead and held on tightly. So tight in fact that through the middle of the race they had built up over a boat length lead. But then coming into the finish both Great Britain and Ukraine charged. These three crews crossed the line practically together. Judges decision gave Russia first and Ukraine second. These two crews get to go directly to the semifinals.
The Germans featured in heat three and they proved that their successful World Cup season was no fluke. They led from start to finish with a clear water lead for the majority of the race. The United States put in a big push at the end to give themselves the second place and also earned them a qualifying spot. Germany had earned the fastest qualifying time, just a fraction faster than Croatia in heat one.
Heat four saw Australia and Poland slotting into the two qualifying spots and never giving them up. Poland has dominated this event since 2005, but recently they have taken some losses. Now stroke man Adam Korol is out of the boat due to back problems with Piotr Licznerski coming into stroke seat. The Poles made a solid effort today finishing second and they move on to the semifinals along with Australia.
Men’s Pair (M2-) – Heats
This event opened with 24 countries spread among four heats. Under the FISA progression system, crews had to finish first if they wanted a direct path to the semifinals. For most of the races it meant that one crew got a healthy lead and the rest of the field then decided not to challenge, saving themselves instead for the repechage.
Heat one turned out to be the closest of the four heats. This is how it happened. Canada’s comeback crew of Scott Frandsen and Dave Calder took hold of the lead and moved away from everyone else. But behind them Australia and Hungary went head-to-head. This two way battle continued to the line and meant that coming into the closing stages Australia and Hungary had closed the gap on Canada. Hungary pulled out a 46 stroke rate sprint to get ahead of Australia but they could not reach the Canadians in time. Frandsen and Calder advance to the semifinals.
It was no surprise to see Great Britain’s Andrew Triggs Hodge and Pete Reed dominating heat two. This classy crew made the race look easy rating 37 for the majority of it. At the line the British had a huge margin over Germany in second and they also had earned the fastest qualifying time. Reed and Hodge go directly to the semifinals on Wednesday.
Greece’s Gkountoulas twins took the lead in heat three with Italy’s Niccolo Mornati and Lorenzo Carboncini following closely behind. Greece held the lead through the middle of the race but then appeared to run out of steam. Mornati and Carboncini made the most of it and pushed into the lead. The Greeks took off the pressure and the Italians earned an easy win. Mornati and Carboncini advance to the semifinals.
World Champions, Eric Murray and Hamish Bond of New Zealand took control of heat four early in the race. In recent years Murray and Bond have been practically out of reach of their competition. Only Great Britain has been able to get close to them. Today the Netherlands tried their best but could not maintain the pace set by the New Zealanders. Murray and Bond kept their stroke long and controlled and had no need to sprint the finish. The New Zealanders move on to the semifinals, just a second behind the Brits.
Women’s Double Sculls (W2x) – Heats
This event had four heats with the top two in each heat earning a spot in Wednesday’s semifinals. In heat one Australia’s Kerry Hore and Kim Crow showed that their recent training in Varese, Italy had gone well. Together they led their heat from start to finish. China’s Yan Jiang and Jingli Duan came through from a slow start to slot in behind the Australians, but Hore and Crow remained in control of this race. At the line both crews had qualified for the semifinals.
World Champions and unbeaten since 2010, Great Britain’s Anna Watkins and Katherine Grainger featured in heat two. As has been their style Watkins and Grainger got out into the lead, moved away through the middle of the race and then did just enough to hold the lead. Germany tried really hard to close the leaders gap, but Carina Baer and Nina Wengert just did not have the same speed. Watkins and Grainger were able to drop their stroke rate to 31 strokes per minute and still cross the line in first. Great Britain and Germany qualify for Wednesday’s semifinals, Great Britain with the fastest qualifying time.The 2009 World Champions, Magdalena Fularczyk and Julia Michalska of Poland had control of heat three. Together Fulcarczyk and Michalska took the lead over the Czech Republic at the start and kept an eye on the rest of the field. Coming into the second half of the race the biggest threat was coming from Serbia. Serbia’s single sculler Iva Obradovic has moved into the double with Ivana Filipovic and it looks like they have found a very speedy combination. Serbia overtook the Czechs and then closed the gap on the Poles. The Czech Republic then took the pressure off with Serbia then looking satisfied to just remain in second. Poland and Serbia qualify for the semifinals.
New Zealand’s Fiona Paterson and Anna Reymer completely dominated heat four. The duo was at the back of the A-final for the Lucerne World Rowing Cup in July and it looks like their training in between has paid off. After getting out to a fast start Paterson and Reymer moved away from the rest of the field through the middle of the race. Ukraine, in second, seemed content to leave it that way. New Zealand and Ukraine qualify for the semifinals.
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