The ever-changing weather conditions at the Eton Dorney regatta course for the London 2012 Olympic Games, started with a light tail then changed to a side wind with a bit of a head wind by the end of racing. The cloudy skies also brought a brief period of rain to the biggest Olympic ‘stadium’ of the London Olympics.

Great Britain got the ball rolling to win the first heat of the day in the lightweight women’s double sculls. Later in racing Great Britain did it again when their Olympic Champion lightweight men’s double put any recent performance doubts to one side to win their heat.

Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x) – Heats
What a way to start today’s heats! With a British boat sitting in the starting blocks for Heat One the crowd was going wild. Sophie Hosking and Katherine Copeland of Great Britain have had a mixed season. They finished outside of the medals at two of the three World Rowing Cups this season and today they came to the Olympic regatta having swapped places in the boat. The aim today was to finish in a top two position for a direct path to the semifinals and it was all about Hosking and Copeland.

New Zealand (Ayling and Edward) took off quickly but were soon reeled in by Hosking and Copeland coming into the middle of the race. Once in the lead, Hosking and Copeland completely broke away. The crowd were on their feet. Hosking and Copeland must have been buoyed. New Zealand, now in second, could not hold on to the British and then found themselves under threat for a qualifying spot by a flying Denmark. Anne Lolk Thomsen of Denmark comes to rowing from Olympic kayaking and she joined rowing stalwart Juliane Rasmussen two years ago. The Danes seem to be improving with every race they contend.

Coming into the final sprint Hosking and Copeland remained in front with Thomsen and Rasmussen on 41, gaining with every stroke. But the British had too much of a lead. Great Britain and Denmark earn spots in the semifinals. New Zealand will now have to race in the repechage.

Christina Giazitzidou (b) and Alexandra Tsiavou (s) of Greece race in the lightweight women’s double sculls heat at the 2012 Olympic Rowing Regatta at Eton-Dorney near London, Great Britain.

 The World Champions, Greece are looking good. Chirstina Giazitzidou and Alexandra Tsiavou of Greece got away with a fast start and, as the rain began to fall, took a clean start in Heat Two. Australia’s Bronwen Watson and Hannah Every-Hall followed in second and both of these crews held their own through the middle of the race.

Watson has made a comeback to rowing after taking a couple of years off from international racing with Every-Hall racing with another partner in 2011. Today they looked Olympic ready, holding off any challenges.

The order did not change with Greece and Australia securely in the two qualifying spots.

On this changeable day, the rain stopped and the wind began to turn around to a head as heat three took to the waters of Dorney Lake. Right from the start Dongxiang Xu and Wenyi Huang of China stamped their mark on Heat Three. This is Xu’s third Olympic Games and, with new partner, Huang they are a definite medal hopeful at these Olympic Games.

But Xu and Huang’s were being pushed hard by Germany. Lena Mueller and Anja Noske of Germany qualified for the Olympics at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in May this year and then went on to take a medal at the Samsung World Rowing Cup in Munich. Mueller and Noske held on to the Chinese through the first half of the race but then looked to not have the same push in the second half of the race.

Xu and Huang looked smooth as they came into the finish at a 34 stroke rate pace. Noske and Mueller held on to second with the rest of the field way back. China and Germany move on to the semifinals.
Results: CHN, GER, JPN, KOR, VIE

Julia Edward (NZL)
"The last 700 metres, we went a bit too early, trying to hold them (the Denmark crew of Anne Lolk THOMSEN and Juliane RASMUSSEN) off and we couldn't hold it until the end. For quite a few years we've been trying to get New Zealand lightweight women's rowing into the medals. Hopefully we can motivate more New Zealand lightweights."

Kristin Hedstrom (USA)
"It's a very strong field. Definitely the sort of field where mistakes will cost you. (It) definitely makes sense to be on your game for everything. "

Christina Giazitzidou (GRE)
« Today was my first race at a Games and it is really just something new and so wonderful. We cannot wait for the semifinals. It is very, very hard on your body. But for us, our next goal was the semifinals and we are there. So that's everything to us. »

Alexandra Tsiavou (GRE)
"It really is our first race in such a crowd. Sometimes the noise helps, sometimes not but we try to just focus and think of the next part of the race."

Katherine Copeland (GBR)
"This must be the closest to what it is like in the athletics stadium. The noise is something I have never heard before and I am really enjoying it. I like that I haven't been to an Olympics before, to go in excited with no past negative experiences"

Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x) – Heats
In Heat One Italy were the first to show featuring Elia Luini with his new partner Pietro Ruta. The last minute change to this crew came about after Lorenzo Bertini suffered a back injury earlier this month. But there were two boats pushing hard – Portugal and Canada. Pedro Fraga and Nuno Mendes are the sole Portuguese representatives for rowing at these Olympic Games and they have been working towards this event ever since the finish of the 2008 Olympic Games.

Coming into the middle of the race Fraga and Mendes had pushed into the lead and moved clean away from Italy with Canada’s Douglas Vandor and Morgan Jarvis now dropping back a bit. This is a new strategy for Fraga and Mendes who are better known for their ending sprint.

Then Luini and Ruta began to push back, closing on the Portuguese. Coming into the final sprint Italy rated 39 to Portugal’s 38. The stronger sprint by the Italians gave them the lead at the finish. Italy and Portugal both earn spots in the semifinals.
Results: ITA, POR, CAN, IND, EGY

From the start of Heat Two Olympic and World Champions Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter of Great Britain had the lead. Purchase and Hunter come to these Olympic Games following a below-par season which saw them outside of the medals at the last two international races that they contested. But this is a course that Purchase and Hunter know very well from many British rowing trials and races, and they also had the crowd behind them.

By the middle of the race Purchase and Hunter remained in front with last year’s World silver medallists, Storm Uru and Peter Taylor of New Zealand solidly in second. Great Britain and New Zealand then moved clean away from the rest of the field holding their own grudge-match out in front.

Great Britain continued to keep their nose in front with New Zealand, back a fraction, matching the British stroke rate. Both crews rated in the mid-30s and the question was; were these two crews going to sprint for the line or would they hold their top speed for later at these Olympic Games?

A call from Purchase brought the British stroke rate up with New Zealand following suit reaching 42 strokes per minute. At the line the British remained in front with these two crews easily earning spots in the semifianls.
Results: GBR, NZL, AUS, CHN, ARG

Mads Rasmussen (b) and Quist Rasmus (s) of Denmark race in the lightweight men’s double sculls heat at the 2012 Olympic Rowing Regatta at Eton-Dorney near London, Great Britain.

Flying out of the start of Heat Three were Hungary’s Zsolt Hirling and Tamas Varga. But margins were incredibly tight as the five boats went through the half-way point with just over one second separating the entire field. Greece then gained the lead before the Hungarians took it back.

But the race was far from over. As the final sprint came into view the margins were still incredibly tight and the five boats had just a minute and a half spread. This is when 2008 Olympic medallists, Mads Rasmussen and Rasmus Quist of Denmark decided to put the pressure on. Taking their stroke rate to 40, the Danes continued to keep their stroke long and the power on.

Norway’s Kristoffer Brun and Are Strandli were also pressing hard. No other crew could match the sprint of the two Scandinavian crews and at the line Denmark and Norway were the clear qualifiers for the semifinals.
Results: DEN, NOR, CUB, HUN, GRE

An early lead by Linus Lichtschlag and Lars Hartig of Germany in Heat Four must have given this crew confidence. The duo finished fourth in the world last year and come to the Olympic Games for the first time. Only Stany Delayre and Jeremie Azou of France could match the pace of the Germans with the remainder of the field far from contention by the middle of the race.

Delayre and Azou are a new combination, being selected for the Olympic double earlier this season and in their first international race together, the Samsung World Rowing Cup in Lucerne in May, the duo won.

A big push by the French at around the 1250m mark gave them the lead over Germany and with that the race was all but over. Lichtschlag and Hartig took the pressure off while Delayre and Azou took their stroke rate down as well. France and Germany are the easy qualifiers for the semifinal from this heat.
Results: FRA, GER, JPN, URU, HKG

Stany Delayre (FRA)
We want to row a great race and need to let the machine go. We know where we are now with all our training from the last months and I think the Germans (LICHTSCHLAG/HARTIG) helped us a bit today."

Jeremie Azou (FRA)
"The Germans started very fast which worried me a bit in the beginning. After the first 1000m there was about a boat length between us. We had a good start and both, Stany (teammate DELAYRE) and me, felt the same, but in this situation the smallest mistake and you can lose your place. When we knew we were safe we pushed forward. "

Peter Taylor (NZL)
"We wanted to win, we came very close there. We are happy with a solid put-out. This is just the first race, the semis are the important parts"

Pedro Fraga (POR)
"The Portuguese spirit is like that. We keep going. When it's needed, we give it all. We have the spirit of fighting.

Zac Purchase (GBR)
"We have sent a message of intent to ourselves. We're aware that we have had a terrible season but now we're a crew to be reckoned with. Everyone knows we are capable of rising to the occasion and there is no bigger occasion than the Olympics. We want to go out and produce results we're proud of, to convince not only us but everyone else that they were wrong."

Mark Hunter (GBR)
"We hate losing. We hate losing more than anyone else. The whole nation wants team GB to do well, we are very proud to be British and to be wearing this kit and we want London and the rest of the country to be absolutely buzzing from our success."

Women’s Eight (W8+) – Heats
It is nothing short of spectacular when you see an eight break away to an open water lead. This is perhaps the hardest boat class to accomplish this but the United States managed to today on Dorney Lake. The United States are no shrinking violets. Cafaro, Francia, Lofgren, Ritzel, Musnicki, Logan, Lind and Davies with coxswain Whipple are the latest line up in a boat that has won every single international race since 2006.

Erin Cafaro (b), Zsuzsanna Francia, Esther Lofgren, Taylor Ritzel, Megan Musnicki, Eleanor Logan, Caroline Lind, Caryn Davies (s) and cox Mary Whipple of the United States of America race in the women’s eight heat at the 2012 Olympic Rowing Regatta at Eton-Dorney near London, Great Britain.

By the half-way point of Heat One the United States had a huge, gaping five second lead over Australia. All the rest of the field could do was tussle amongst themselves. The British gave it their best shot in trying to overtake the Australians, but Australia was ready. At the line, with just one crew qualifying directly for the final, there was no doubt about who it would be – the United States.
Results: USA, AUS, GBR, GER

Despite the United States’ massive win in heat one, Canada pulled off a coup in Heat Two by recording the fastest qualifying time. The Canadian’s (Hanson, Viinberg, Guloien, Wilkinson, Mastracci, Brzozowicz, Marquaardt, Morin and coxswain Lesley Thompson-Willie) got out to the lead at the start with the Netherlands being the closest challengers.

By the middle of the race Romania had pushed past the Dutch and were in second but they did not look like they could close on Canada. Romania dominated the Olympic eight’s race between 1996 and 2004, but lost their domination in 2008 to the Americans. They have been racing for the lesser medals ever since.

Coming into the line Canada were being pressed but not pressed hard. They are the one qualifying crew and will meet the United States in the final.
Results: CAN, ROU, NED

Lesley Thompson-Willie (CAN)
"We had a good start and a good strong race. You never know what it will be like. Our objective was to win, to get to the final and have a good race. It felt good, felt solid, there is more in us. You can only measure against your competition at the time. You would think based on history that the Americans would be in the final, but we hope to be right there with them. We are not thinking about the USA, we just want to have our best race."

Sally Kehoe (AUS)
"It's been a tough year. (There's been) a few dark moments. It's been a good opportunity here. These younger girls offer lots of freshness to racing. (When we're) at the start line, I know these girls are going to fight."

Ashley Brzozowicz (CAN)
"I think the US has a great uni (university) row system. They have strong rowers, big rowers. We have a small population, a small athlete pool. But we have the best sport system in the world. We all want to win gold. You can't count anyone out."

Erin Cafaro (USA)
"Sometimes in the United States, rowing is not one of the big sports. Coming over here, a place where rowing is one of the premier events, that's great."

Mary Whipple (USA)
"My girls are so good. They allow me to be their leader. I tell them our race plans, the way of execution, and give them confidence. I tell them how much further it is. Basically, we keep it simple, especially when it gets loud. I'm the little voice that says, 'We want more, give me more, go now'."