Competition will always be fierce at Worlds—every rower shows up to the starting line in tip-top shape, fueled by national pride, and thirsty for gold.
But racing at the 2011 World Champs will be even more inspired… This year, there is an additional carrot dangling in front of our noses: Olympic qualification! The International Olympic Committee caps the number of entries for the Olympic regatta, so a crew’s finish at the 2011 Worlds becomes especially important. For my boat (W8+), the magic number is five: a top-five finish will guarantee the USA an entry in the Olympic women’s eight. Other events require a top-7, top-9, or top-11 finish to earn an Olympic berth.
Because of this additional motivation, the qualifying heats and semifinals have been particularly intense this year. The time difference between a third place (for a spot in the Finals, and a possible Olympic-qualifying spot) and fourth place (to the second-tiered final, with no guarantee of an Olympic entry) can be agonizingly small. We’ve seen some incredibly tight finishes; American crews have been on both the positive and negative side of razor-slim margins.
Monday morning saw the first round of racing for the US Women’s Eight. Eight crews battled it out over two heats; the winner of each heat would head straight to the final, while the other crews would race again in the repechage on Wednesday morning.
After watching the first heat row by (Canada, China, Romania, Netherlands), we toed the line with Germany, Ukraine, and Great Britain. The weather conditions were almost ideal for racing—warm, sunny, with just a light side wind in the middle 1000m.
Even though we won at the Lucerne World Cup, we weren’t taking anything for granted… I’ve been eyeing the competition at practice all week, and everyone looks fit, fast, and motivated. We were definitely going to approach this qualifying heat with a hundred-and-ten percent!
The starting buzzer went off, and the race was underway! With spectators cheering only a stone’s throw away from the starting blocks (and from the overlooking hotel balcony!), all the “Go USA”s resulted in a spirited and invigorating start! We established an aggressive, solid race rhythm early on, and we were able to break free from the pack around the halfway mark. We raced it to the line in 6:05, seven seconds ahead of the British.
Canada won the first heat handily, and with a similar time (6:07), so they will join us in the Final. The top four finishers of Wednesday’s repechage will compose the rest of the field. I foresee some intense racing for the Final on Friday! Go USA!
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