For these athletes it must have felt like racing an Olympic final as a top three finish was required for advancement to the finals. All other boats would go to the B-final.

Argentina’s men’s double pulled off a stunner to win their semifinal, while South Africa showed that they have medal potential in the lightweight men’s four. Denmark’s lightweight four looked back on their game and Australia’s Olympic Champion men’s double will not row in the final.  

Despite predictions of rain and wind the weather remained in rowing’s favour with cloudy skies, a small cross-wind and occasional drizzles at the Eton Dorney regatta course.

Men’s Double Sculls (M2x) – Semifinals
At the end of these two races only three seconds would separate the six boats that made it through to the final.

Watch out for Argentina! Right from the start of Semifinal One Ariel Suarez and Cristian Rosso of Argentina had the lead. Suarez and Rosso have been racing together since 2010, usually to a B-final finish and London is their first Olympic Games. Using a fast start Suarez and Rosso went out hard ahead of Olympic Champions, David Crawshay and Scott Brennan of Australia. This left the commentator at the Eton Dorney venue to exclaim, ‘where are the New Zealanders?’ Two-time reigning World Champions, Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan of New Zealand were back in fifth.

By the middle of the race Suarez and Rosso had three seconds over Cohen and Sullivan, now sitting in fourth. Could Suarez and Rosso maintain their early pace? Keeping the pressure on through the third 500 Suarez and Rosso were now four seconds ahead of the New Zealanders with Germany pushing into second, two seconds down.

Ariel Suarez (b) and Cristian Rosso (s) of Argentina celebrate after winning the semifinal A/B in the men’s double sculls at the 2012 Olympic Rowing Regatta at Eton-Dorney near London, Great Britain.

The sprint to the line had begun. Cohen and Sullivan began to move. Sullivan has admitted that he is much more suited to sprint racing and as he lifted the stroke rate to 44, Sullivan and Cohen had already pushed past Australia and were moving on Germany. All Argentina had to do was hang on, and hang on they did.

At the line Suarez and Rosso had held first, Cohen and Sullivan had belted through to second and The Italians, five-time Olympian Alessio Sartori and new partner Romano Battisti had swallowed up their opposition, despite their relatively low rating, to take third. The 2010 World Champions, Germany was out of the final, so was the reigning Olympic Champions. After the finish Argentina celebrated. New Zealand and Italy looked relieved.

Slovenia’s Luka Spik and Iztok Cop took a page out of Argentina’s book and followed the same tactic of getting into the lead at the start and holding on. Cop is Slovenia’s most medalled Olympic athlete and also won the first ever Olympic medal for Slovenia in 1992. At 40 years old Cop must still have what it takes. With partner since 1999, Spik the duo have had average results this season.

Today in Semifinal Two Cop and Spik were performing the race of their lives. By the middle of the race the Slovenians had a boat length over second-placed Rolandas Mascinskas and Saulius Ritter of Lithuania with Great Britain and Norway pushing Lithuania hard.

The sprint for the line had begun. Nils Jakob Hoff and Kjetil of Norway had won the final Samsung World Rowing Cup in June and had come to London in top form. They haven’t been known to rate high, but they were now giving it their best as the crowd cheered on Bill Lucas and Sam Townsend of Great Britain. Norway ran out of water. Slovenia, Lithuania and Great Britain all celebrated at the line. The usually stoic Cop looked the happiest.
Finalists: ARG, NZL, ITA, SLO, LTU, GBR

David Crawshay (AUS) – M2x – Semifinal
"It's excruciatingly disappointing. Not much went wrong. We did what we needed to do. We put it up in the first five (hundred metres) which we needed. We were in a really good position. It was a high-powered race and we fell off in the last five (hundred metres). The rhythm was much better than in the heat."

Stephan Kreuger (GER) – M2x – Semifinal
"As usual, everything was on one line. Then Italy and Slovenia went away and we couldn't follow."

Sam Townsend (GBR) -M2x – Semifinal
"We definitely need to switch off now this evening, it's a long time between the races and you can start to think too much about stuff – you know, about how you started 10 years ago in this sport and then it all comes down to this 6.5 minute race. You can't let it cripple you. From the 800-metre mark the crowds start to get deeper at the sides and the noise starts cranking up and to be honest the boat felt like it was doing the same thing, being pushed forward by the noise."

Luka Spik (SLO) – M2x -Semifinal
"We have been together a long time. Sometimes it is difficult and hard. It is like being primitive and you don't have to think. We lose sometimes but not today."

Saulius Ritter (LTU) – M2x – Semifinal
"We wanted to get into the final tomorrow (Wednesday), it was our biggest goal. We will try to do our best rowing and what happens, happens. We wouldn't like to let down our country. The crowd here is astonishing for Great Britain, overwhelming. It's the first time in my life I've seen these kinds of crowds anywhere."

Joseph Sullivan (NZL) – M2x -Semifinal
"It wasn't part of the plan. We wanted to get out better than that. The semifinal is harder than the final. All the crews have nothing to lose and push (right) out. It's really the hardest race I've ever done in my life. You expect the reigning Olympic Champions and World Champions to be there. They're gone. It's a shock. These people are always there.It wasn't part of the plan. We wanted to get out better than that. The semifinal is harder than the final. All the crews have nothing to lose and push (right) out. It's really the hardest race I've ever done in my life. You expect the reigning Olympic Champions and World Champions to be there. They're gone. It's a shock. These people are always there."

Lightweight Men’s Four (LM4-) – Semifinals

At the end of Semifinal One Switzerland had a boat in the A-final of the London Olympics rowing regatta. Simon Schuerch, Lucas Tramer, Simon Niepmann and Mario Gyr are all racing at their first Olympics but come to London as regular A-finallists since finishing sixth in the world in 2011.

Switzerland jumped out into the lead at the start with the entire field following closely behind. This closeness remained and just two and a half seconds separated the entire field as they charged through the middle of the race. The margins remained just as tight through the third quarter with Great Britain now getting the leading edge over Switzerland. Unfazed, Switzerland held on as the entire field upped their rating in anticipation of the tight finish.

Although only two and a half seconds down on the leader, late Olympic qualifiers, the Netherlands were going for it. Rating 45, Lievens, Heijbrock and the Muda brothers of the Netherlands had been waiting for this moment. They overtook the Czechs, then the United States, then Germany.  

At the line Great Britain had held on to first, the Swiss had remained with second and the Netherlands had defied the odds to qualify from third. Great Britain had the fastest qualifying time of the two semifinals.

Kasper Winther (b), Morten Jorgensen, Jacob Barsoe and Eskild Ebbesen (s) of Denmark celebrater after winning the semifinal A/B of the lightweight men’s four at the 2012 Olympic Rowing Regatta at Eton-Dorney near London, Great Britain.

Who says you can’t win by going out really hard at the start? After finishing in third in their heats, Denmark must have decided to change their race strategy. The Danes, Winther, Jorgensen, Barsoe and Ebbesen, flew out at the start of Semifinal Two to grab the lead by the first 500m mark. Jorgensen and Ebbesen raced to gold in this event at the 2008 Olympic Games. Ebbesen then retired but has made a comeback to go for Olympic gold number four and thus becoming the most medalled Dane.

Behind Denmark, the rest of the field stuck incredibly closely to the leaders with China the closest. Denmark continued to power on keeping a 38 stroke rate through the body of the race with South Africa, who had beaten Denmark in the heats, now moving closer. Meanwhile, reigning World Champions, Australia had snuck into second and were now anticipating the final sprint.

 It was a flurry of oars, water and bodies as these six crews charged for the line. At the finish Denmark had just held on to first with South Africa’s Thompson, Brittain, Smith an Ndlovu coming through to second while Australia had qualified by finishing third. Both Denmark and South Africa celebrated like they’d just won a medal. The final in this event is going to be hot.
Finalists: GBR, SUI, NED, DEN, RSA, AUS

Timothee Heijbrock (NED) – LM4- Semifinal
"I never doubted if we could do it. We knew beforehand that Germany was the crew we could beat. We were right next to them the entire race. We've beaten them so often before, and now we were closer than usual. I might have doubted us for the tiniest of bits. I thought to myself: 'Maybe the Germans have finally seen the light. It would be so incredibly stupid if they would allow us to overtake them in the final sprint.' They were a length up. We have to be quicker the first 1000 metres. It's necessary to do that. We have to stay with the rest of the field. I don't think we can win much in the second 1000m."

Richard Chambers (GBR) – LM4- Semifinal
"We definitely have to watch out for Denmark. We've beaten them earlier on, so we're in a really good position. We couldn't have done much more (today). We have to deliver our race (in Thursday's final)."

Matthew Brittain (RSA) – LM4- Semifinal
"I think we were very nervous coming into this race and it's a relief to get one under the belt. I'm glad we're not in the B final. You can't win anything in the B. We don't chase the result, we chase the good race and we hope the good race will lead to the good result."

James Thompson (RSA) – LM4- Semifinal
"It was a stepping stone towards things on Thursday. It is really important in the semi to take a step up from the heat and that's what we did today."

John Smith (RSA) – LM4- Semifinal
"We're very happy. The goal of the semi is to get to the final; it was our goal. We had a good second half and it all went to plan."