Three United States Crews Sail Ahead In The Winds of Eton Dorney
July 30, 2012
LONDON – The advance word on Eton Dorney leading up to the London Olympic Games painted a picture of rough waters and strong winds.
For the first two days of the regatta, that was just not the case.
It was today. And the results were noticeable. In every race, with the exception of the men’s eight repechage, at least one boat fumbled a stroke at a critical moment, costing some crews their Olympic dreams and others to have to scramble to recover.
New Zealand women’s quad broke an oar going into the last quarter, the United States men’s pair dug one in mere meters from the finish line and just barley survived, and the men’s quad suffered a boat stopper that they could not recover from.
“We were having a flyer and my blade had had it,” said New Zealand’s’ Louise Trappitt. “It got stuck in the water and snapped in half so even if I could recover it, it would not have been any good. I had to enjoy the ride for the last meters. That’s sport for you.”
It wasn’t a complete roil by anyone’s account, and not the worst that Eton Dorney can throw at crews, but it was messy. The World Rowing website recorded the wind at 27 kilometers per hour.
Still, it wasn’t a total disaster and the United States saw three boats advance, one of them - the women’s quadruple sculls - into the final. The men’s four won their opening heat in convincing form and moved into the semifinal along with the men’s pair.
The women’s double sculls missed moving to the final by one spot and will row again tomorrow in the repechage.
The women’s quad crew of Adrienne Martelli (University Place, Wash.), Megan Kalmoe (St. Croix Falls, Wis.), Kara Kohler (Clayton, Calif.) and Natalie Dell (Clearville, Pa.) finished second in their repechage to Australia, but the first four boats from the six boat race earned a place in the final.
The U.S. rowed back from third in the opening five hundred meters and finished in a time of 6:19.80, just a fraction short of nipping the Aussies in a sprint to the line. Australia posted a time of 6:18.80. They will row in the final Wednesday against Australia, Great Britain, China, Germany and Ukraine.
“I feel pretty honored to be in the finals in the Olympics,” said Dell. “Obviously, we would have liked to have had a better finish, but we’ve got one more race to figure it out and fortunately that’s the one that matters.
“Everybody comes here to win. But it is an honor to make the final and that’s the first goal and that was the goal for today and we’re very proud of that. I think there is more speed over the entire piece we can get and we’ll make that our business to do over the next two days,” she said.
Rowing in the final event of the day, the men’s four crew of Scott Gault (Piedmont, Calif.), Charlie Cole (New Canaan, Conn.), Henrik Rummel (Pittsford, N.Y.), and Glenn Ochal (Philadelphia, Pa.) were blown off their line in the first few strokes and saw Greece edge into the lead.
But the crew righted the course, settled into their rhythm, and handled the field the rest of the way, leading from four hundred meters in, creating an open water lead through the thousand, and then rowing across the line without having to sprint wining in 5:54.88. The Netherlands finished second in 5:55.99, followed by Greece in 5:57.71.
“It was good,” said Rummel. “We haven’t had any races so far this year internationally, so it was good to get one under our belt. It was a solid race and a race that we can definitely improve upon in a lot of aspects. We got hit by a pretty good crosswind in the first two hundred and fifty (meters) and we moved into the buoys a little bit in our steering. But once we got into our rhythm we were fine.
Rummel said that having not raced as a crew before, and the Olympic atmosphere, did not rattle him. “There is always pre-race jitters, but it’s no different from any high school race or anything. It doesn’t get any worse or any better. So you don’t worry about all this hype. You’ve got to treat it like any other race, college race, or high school race, or anything else, and that’s what we did today.
But he did like the noise.
“It was like rowing into the Rose Bowl here, it was crazy. But we were fine, once you get started. You don’t even think about it. That wasn’t a full race. We kind of just coasted in the last five hundred and scrambled a little in the first five hundred, so we’ve got some improvements to make. That’s not our best showing yet, so that’s good.”
In the men’s pair, the crew of Silas Stafford (Santa Rosa, Calif.) and Tom Peszek (Farmington Hills, Mich.) had a solid start in their repechage and rowed out in front through the first thousand meters before being passed by Germany and Serbia.
Coming into the last five hundred meters, it looked like they were going to catch Serbia and row comfortably into the semifinal when Stafford’s oar got caught in the water.
“We were pretty comfortable and I thought we were going to get Serbia and then that happened and I thought, ‘Oh, crap, we just need to qualify at this point.’ So it was just survival. Try and get the boat straight, try and keep in the lane, and hang on. We were going pretty crazy trying to get the job done,” Stafford said.
The pair finished third in 6:27.41. Germany won in 6:22.76 and Serbia crossed second in 6:26.61.
“It wasn’t pretty. But we got through,” Stafford said. “I still think there is more speed for us to find. I think we’re going to hopefully improve every race. Hopefully we’re going to do something special Wednesday and sneak into the final. We’re doing what we can. It was not an ideal situation, but we got the job done,” he said.
“I’m just really glad we put up a good first one thousand because I think I almost blew it for us in that back half,” said Peszek. “It was good we had a really strong one thousand to give us that cushion. It was a digger on his side, but I’m his bodyguard back there. So that’s my job to keep us set when he just cranks on it. So I’m just glad we got it back together enough to sort of limp across the finish line to get through.”
They will race again on Wednesday in a semifinal against Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Canada and The Netherlands.
Following the men’s pair rep, the women’s double sculls crew of Margot Shumway (Westlake, Ohio) and Sarah Trowbridge (Guilford, Conn.) got their first crack at Eton Dorney in the opening heats of their events.
Rowing in fourth through the first 500 meters, the pair moved into third and challenged for second in the third quarter until Poland made a push that locked them into second and forced Shumway and Trowbridge into tomorrow’s repechage.
It’s a scenario they have been training for, said their coach, Matt Madigan.
“We’ve trained all season for it,” he said. “We’re prepared for it. The girls have a routine that they are going to do and they’re in the process of that right now. We’ve done a lot of back to back work this year so I’m expecting them to be ready to go tomorrow.”
Shumway agreed. “We’ve been doing a lot of pieces two days in a row, twice a week. We’re ready. We’ll be good. I’m a little tired. It was a great race. We knew we were racing really fast boats and we put ourselves out there and we had a solid piece,” she said.
“I’m feeling strong,” said Trowbridge. “I think there are some alterations to the race that we would like to make, but it was a step in the right direction. So we’re going to keep this momentum going and execute our plan, we’ve got more.”
“I think we were focusing on what we needed to do. We would have liked to catch (Poland) but we are prepared and ready for a three-race regatta, and I think that’s going to work to our benefit.
“It’s just really exciting (rowing in the Olympics) because it’s different than the world championships because it’s only a select few. So that once you’ve gotten here you know you’re one of the best. It’s really cool to be around people who have not only had similar paths to get here but definitely similar experiences and you can relate to everyone here and you get to go to the line and put down your best race. And that is something that is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
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Ed Moran, photos by Ed Hewitt, row2k Media