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The Smallest of Margins
August 17, 2012
PLOVDIV, Bulgaria – From the grandstands, it was impossible to tell which boat crossed the line in third to earn a spot in the lightweight men’s quad final.
Both Austria and the United States were driving hard through the last 500 meters of the Plovdiv Channel. The announcer following the race couldn’t distinguish who was ahead. And when the times were posted on the big screen, it listed only the top two boats, Greece and Italy.
And then came the announcement. It was a dead heat, unofficially. On the screen, third place was awarded to Austria. The United States was listed in fourth. But the times were identical – 6:00.85. The decision, race officials said, would have to be made by studying the photograph.
Call it a loss by a pixel, “the smallest, controllable element of a picture,” as it is defined in the dictionary, or ten thousandth of a second. It was that close. But it meant the B final for the United States in the 2012 World Rowing Senior and Junior World Championships, regardless of the size.
“It’s just one of those things,” said Sam Cunningham (Pittsburgh, Pa.), who along with Dave Smith (Seattle, Wash.) Bob Duff (Huntington Valley, Pa.), and Shane Madden (Ambler, Pa.) represented the U.S. in the lightweight senior men’s quadruple sculls event in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
In the first quarter of the race the U.S. rowed in fourth place, then fell to sixth in the second 500-meters. Through the second half of the course, they pushed to make up the distance and closed hard in the last 250 until they were in a battle for third the both Austria and Hungary.
Hungary was clearly in fifth in the photograph. But the distance between Austria and the U.S. was no more than a hotel key card. They will now row in the B finals Saturday
“You see it in a lot of races, were people just get it on the surge. It’s just the sport. It was our best race. Everything went together as planned. Maybe one or two strokes there was a bobble but that’s the crazy thing about this event is that if you miss it for one stroke or have one little slip up that can be just the tiny bit that you need at the finish line. But I’m proud of my guys.
“The race was kind of a blur, mostly. The thought before hand was just to do kind of a time trial, just hit our rates and hit our pave and sure enough that worked and put us in position and the last two-fifty were just put our nose to the grindstone and just started hammering it out. It sort of worked.”
For complete event coverage, schedules and results, visit http://www.usrowing.org/Pressbox/12SrJrWorldsChampions.aspx.