In gusty conditions with an inconsistent wind, these athletes gave it their all in hopes of making the Olympic final. Semifinals were contested in the men’s four, lightweight women’s and men’s double sculls and the women’s single sculls.

Men’s Four (M4-) – Semifinals
This race was touted as a preview of the Olympic final as sitting in the two centre lanes were Australia and Great Britain. The British and Australians are the top two teams this season and during the Samsung World Rowing Cup season the score was one-all for the two times these crews met. Coming to Semifinal One Australia and Great Britain are the two fastest boats from the heats. The question was would the two crews race this race like a final?

At the start Australia jumped out and, as expected, only Great Britain could keep up with them. Through the middle of the race Australia (Dunkley-Smith, Ginn, Chapman and Lockwood) held the edge over Great Britain (Triggs Hodge, James, Reed and Gregory).

Meanwhile, behind the leaders, the Dutch, Belarus and Serbia held a tight battle with the Netherlands just keeping the third-placed spot.
In the sprint to the line Great Britain began to move. Taking their stroke rate to 38 and then 42, the Brits powered on. Australia chose not to react. Was this a wily strategy that they had planned? At the line the crowd took delight in the British win with Australia qualifying from second and a very, very happy Dutch crew qualifying for the Olympic final by finishing third.

Stergios Papachristos (b), Ioannis Tsilis, Georgios Tziallas and Ioannis Christou (s) of Greece race in the men’s four semifinal A/B at the 2012 Olympic Rowing Regatta at Eton-Dorney near London, Great Britain.

The United States chose not to race internationally this season before London and came here as relative unknown quantities. But they are the priority sweep boat for their country and finished fourth at last year’s World Rowing Championships. The United States looked very good in the heats when they won and today they got ahead of Germany to take the lead. Greece and Germany, however, were not going to let the United States (Ochal, Rummel, Cole and Gault) get away with an easy race in Semifinal Two.

Going through the middle of the race United States, Greece and Germany remained tightly packed together and looked clearly to be the three qualifiers. At the line the United States had remained in the lead, a very, very happy Greece had come through to take second and the Germans take third. These are the qualifying boats.
Finalists: GBR, AUS, NED, USA, GRE, GER

Pete Reed (GBR) – M4-
"I was just sitting up and felt enormous pressure. I felt alive. Coming into the last 500 (metres) is where the crowd makes a difference."

William Lockwood (AUS) – M4-
(On Drew Ginn) "It's been great to have somone so level-headed in the crew. It keeps the younger guys like me in a good head-space – and what he says is gospel, really."

Ruben Knap (NED) – M4-
"You know beforehand that Australia and Great Britain will go out fast together. Boaz (Meylink) twice asked for a push to get back on the British, but I think the crew was happy to be in third place."

Glen Ochal (USA) – M4-
"It was solid. We were ahead by halfway, where we wanted to be, because, in the first half, people were doing all sorts of crazy stuff. We just stuck to our rhythm, and this carried us through the middle."

Ioannis Tsilis (GRE) – M4-
"This race for us was much better than the heat. We rowed with clear minds and we tried to do what our coach told us from the beginning. We followed exactly our race plan."

Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x) – Semifinals

The reigning World Champions, Christina Giazitzidou and Alexandra Tsiavou of Greece are a class act. They jumped out into the lead over Lena Mueller and Anja Noske of Germany at the start of Semifinal One. Mueller and Noske have been doing superbly at this Olympic regatta after being last minute Olympic qualifiers in May.

Going through the middle of the race Tsiavou and Giazitzidou had moved to a solid full boat-length lead. Could anyone catch them? The answer turned out to be a resounding ‘yes’. Going through the 1250m mark Katherine Copeland and Sophie Hosking of Great Britain began to move. And what a move it was. It got them ahead of Germany and closed the gap on Greece. But there was more to come for Great Britain. Rating 37, Copeland and Hosking continued to move and at the 1550m point they had the lead.
The crowd was loving it and with that, Copeland and Hosking powered home to a comfortable win. Greece held on to second with Germany qualifying for the final by finishing third.

Dongxiang Xu (b) and Wenyi Huang (s) of China (l) compete against Juliane Rasmussen (s) and Anne Lolk Thomsen (b) of Denmark (r) in the lightweight women’s double sculls semifinal A/B at the 2012 Olympic Rowing Regatta at Eton-Dorney near London, Great Britain.

China’s Dongxiang Xu and Wenyi Huang continued to have a great regatta here at the 2012 Olympic Games. Xu, who finished fifth at the Beijing Olympics, is partnered with the youthful Huang who is at her first Olympic Games. Today in Semifinal Two they got out in front of a fast-starting Australia (Bronwen Watson and Hannah Every-Hall) to take the lead.

Going through the middle of the race, however, there was nothing in it between China, Australia and Denmark. All three crews were working hard and trying to shake off the Netherlands who were also on the pace. Then China and Denmark (Anne Lolk Thomsen and Juliane Rasmussen) started to pull away from the rest of the field. Australia tried to hold on as the sprint to the line saw Thomsen and Rasmussen rating 41 to keep up with Xu and Huang on 37.

These three boats – China, Denmark and, in third, Australia had qualified for the final. Three countries looked very relieved after the finish line.
Finalists: GBR, GRE, GER, CHN, DEN, AUS

Anne Lolk Thomsen (DEN) – LW2x – Semifinal
"The start wasn't perfect but we picked it up well. We were more aggressive in the first 1000 (metres) than in our heat and we know we're really strong in the last 1000."

Xu Dongxiang (CHN) – LW2x – Semifinal
"I can definitely row better and will improve on my previous finishes in Athens and Beijing. But our greatest opponent is ourselves."

Christina Giazitzdou (GRE) – LW2x  -Semifinal
"The semifinal is a very tricky race. You feel you are doing well and yet the next thing you know you can be out of the final – the teams are very tight. It's one race, and every race is different. We're in the final. We (will) try to win."

Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x) – Semifinals

Linus Lichtschlag (b) and Lars Hartig (s) of Germany are happy after finishing third in the semifinal A/B of the lightweight men’s double sculls at the 2012 Olympic Rowing Regatta at Eton-Dorney near London, Great Britain.

As the wind continued to gust Italy leapt off the line in Semifinal One with Denmark and Greece chasing hard. Italy has had a crew change because of injury so Elia Luini is now racing with Pietro Ruta. The Italians, however, had gone out too hard and by the middle of the race Beijing Olympic medallists, Mads Rasmussen and Rasmus Quist of Denmark were in the lead. Rasmussen and Quist took time off after Beijing but came back together last year to build up for London. Today Rasmussen and Quist rowed a beautiful, synchronised race at the head of the field.

World silver medallists, Storm Uru and Peter Taylor of New Zealand moved into second with Germany’s Linus Lichtschlag and Lars Hartig following very closely in third. Both New Zealand and Denmark looked fluid and relatively relaxed as the race came into the final sprint.
Coming into the final stroke of the race the Danes and New Zealand rated about 37 and did not look particularly pushed with Germany holding onto third. These are the three crews that qualify for the Olympic final.

Coming out at the start of Semifinal Two all six boats looked almost level with Cuba holding a slight advantage. Then the World and Olympic Champions decided to put a push on. With that Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter of Great Britain got into the lead with France’s young sensations, Stany Delayre and Jeremie Azou going with the British. Delayre and Azou are both very accomplished single scullers with Azou holding the under-23 World Best Time and the senior World Best Time. But the duo only joined up at the end of May and since then they have been doing very well together.

Great Britain and France then managed to inch away from the field with Cuba, Norway, Hungary and Portugal all going neck-and-neck. There was no doubt that this would be a tight finish.

Great Britain rated 39, France rated 40 and Portugal’s Pedro Fraga and Nuno Mendes were conducting an absolute flyer down the outside. Fraga and Mendes have been working towards these Olympics ever since they raced at the Beijing Olympics and their closing sprint is well known. Today they were using it. At the line Great Britain had finished first, France second and Portugal third. These are the boats that would race in the Olympic final.

Zac Purchase (GBR) – LM2x
"We have had a pretty dodgy season so far, but we are out here to do well."

Stany Delayre (FRA) – LM2x
"At the Olympic Games everyone starts on the same level. It's not because we already won a world cup that we are better, but we are young and we are here to ruffle the feathers of some people who are already established. We know what a final is and we will try to row a great race."

Rasmus Quist (DEN) – LM2x
"We rowed ourselves into a good position and we have had good races. We had a good training camp and this has put us in a strong position. It is exciting to see how much we have improved with our training."

Women’s Single Sculls (W1x) – Semifinals
Australia’s rowing sensation, Kim Crow got off to a very fast start in Semifinal One and took the lead. At the end of this race she would be the top trender in Australia on Twitter. With beautiful long, flowing strokes Crow looked comfortable on a 31 stroke rate. But the comfort would soon end as Mirka Knapkova, the reigning World Champion from the Czech Republic pushed past.

Knapkova is yet to win an Olympic medal despite a whole swag of World Championship medals and two Olympics already under her belt. This could be her moment. Knapkova, once in the lead, sat on a 30 stroke rate and moved away from Crow with the great Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus now in third.

The order did not change to the line with Karsten, rating 32, looking like she was working the hardest coming into the line. Knapkova, Crow and Karsten are now all in the Olympic final. This would be Karsten’s sixth Olympic final and her change to go after a sixth Olympic medal.

Fie Udby Erichsen of Denmark competes in the women’s single sculls semifinal A/B at the 2012 Olympic Rowing Regatta at Eton-Dorney near London, Great Britain.

Wow, watch out for Fie Udby Erichsen of Denmark. Erichsen has been rowing internationally for over a decade but just moved into the single in 2010. Today she surprised her competition by rowing world by leading from start to finish in Semifinal Two. This was no mean feat considering Erichsen was up against Olympians China’s Xiuyun Zhang and New Zealand’s Emma Twigg. At the Beijing Olympics Zhang was fourth with Twigg finishing ninth.  Last year Twigg was third and Zhang fourth while Erichsen was out of the Olympic qualifying spots and had to qualify at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in May.

Both Twigg and Zhang were not going to make it easy for Erichsen and these three boats together moved away from the rest of the field in their own private race.

All three of these boats sprinted the finish, Twigg on 36, Zhang at 34 and Erichsen holding on at 35. These were the Olympic final qualifying boats.
Finalists: CZE, AUS, BLR, DEN, CHN, NZL

Mirka Knapkova (CZE) – W1x – Semifinal
Every competitor is dangerous and everyone wants to win. Everyone does their maximum. I will have to fight.