A Tri-Color Day for the United States at the 2013 World Rowing Championships
August 30, 2013
CHUNGJU, South Korea – When they crossed the finish line, the women in the United States four did the unexpected for a crew that had just won a world championship.
They sat still. There was no arm waving, no big celebration.
There were just four tired women, who had rowed as hard as they possibly could, had come from behind and taken control by halfway down the course, and then just kept pushing until they crossed the line in first, bringing the first gold to the U.S. at the 2013 World Rowing Championships.
“It was hard,” said Olivia Coffey (Watkins Glen, N.Y.), when the crew of Felice Mueller (Cleveland, Ohio), Tessa Gobbo (Chesterfield, N.H.), Coffey and Emily Huelskamp (Sainte Genevieve, Mo.) made it to the pre-ceremony mix area and were handed cold water and ice packs.
“It probably wasn’t as clean as we wanted it to be, but we just focused on pulling hard and that’s what mattered in the end,” she said. “I’m really tired. It hasn’t hit me yet.”
The medal was the first of three won by the U.S. on Friday. The lightweight women’s quadruple sculls won silver and the lightweight men’s eight took bronze.
Racing Australia, Canada, Germany, Korea and Italy, the U.S. women’s four fell behind Canada and Australia and rowed in third out of the first quarter, as the two other crews tried to take the race away from them. It was not like in the preliminary race, when they took the lead early and dominated.
This time, they had to fight through Canada and Australia. But it was what they had planned on, what they expected to happen, and they were ready.
“You never want to be behind. But we talked a lot about the Canadian team going out fast in the first 500, first 750, trying to get a lead,” said women’s four coach Rob Weber. “I didn’t expect it to be the same way it was on Tuesday, and I don’t think they panicked. I think they did a really good job of keeping their poise and they kept driving and driving and pulled it out. It went pretty much the way we expected.”
It was one of the highlights of a day that saw the U.S. add to the Para-Rowing bronze won Wednesday in the trunk, arms and legs mixed double sculls and two other boats advance to the Sunday finals.
The lightweight men’s four sprinted past the Italians in the final few hundred meters and got to the final for the first time since 2000.
Behind them, women’s single sculler Eleanor Logan (Boothbay Harbor, Maine) rowed steadily out of fourth place and into third in a grouping that included London double medalist, Kim Crow of Australia, and New Zealand’s top female sculler, Emma Twigg.
Logan, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the women’s eight, finished third and moved on to the final in her first year in the event.
For the women’s four, it was also a year for a first. The event is the only development boat available to women at the international level. It was dropped for a lack of entries following the 2011 world championships. The U.S. won that race as well, and it appeared they would go into the record books as the last champions in the event.
But it was reinstated for this year and Mueller, Gobbo, Coffey and Huelskamp defended the title.
“I’m just so excited,” said Gobbo. “I can’t think of a better way to start pretty much all of our senior national team careers. I’m just glad they didn’t get rid of the four and that I had this opportunity.”
Like the rest, Huelskamp was still soaking in the moment, while she waited for the medal presentations.
“It’s yet to set in,” she said. “But I think it’s really exciting. I couldn’t do it without those three behind me and when I get to celebrate it with everybody else, maybe it will set in more.”
“I tried not to look around because Liv made some great calls and I just trust her,” Huelskamp said, recalling how the race unfolded. “But from time to time, I glanced over and I thought, we’ve got this. We’ve got this physically. We’ve got this mentally. We’re good to go.
“I think the first part was a little rocky,” she said. “But we knew our plan and knew that if we stayed relaxed, it would come, and that’s what happened.”
Next to the podium was the lightweight women’s quad crew of Hillary Saeger (Dedham, Mass.), Nancy Miles (Bainbridge Island, Wash.), Helen Tompkins (Friendswood, Texas) and Rachel Stortvedt (Long Beach, Calif.).
Coming off a win in the heat, the U.S. was favored to win a medal. What color was the big question. They did not disappoint and jumped right into a fight with The Netherlands and Italy. The three crews exchanged the lead throughout the race and when it was sorted out, The Netherlands was in first, the U.S. was in second and Italy was in third.
It is Saeger’s third time to the podium in the event, having won bronze twice before – the first in 2009, the second in 2011.
“Moving up on the podium – that was awesome,” Saeger said. “There was so much power in the boat. You could feel it all the way down. The level of competition keeps getting harder every year, and we just keep coming at it. A silver medal for the first time. Finally,” she said.
Miles, who is new to the senior team, said she never looked where they were on the course and just listened to Saeger call the race.
“I never realized we were down, ever. I trust Hillary completely. This is very much a team effort. We didn’t have a lot of time to come together until here,” she said. “Trials was the first race. Here, we came off the heat and Hillary called a superb race. We’ve really grown a lot during this regatta.”
The lightweight men’s eight of coxswain Michael Hwang (Seattle, Wash.), Sean Gibel (Atlanta, Ga.), Peter Gibson (Belmont, Mass.), Josh Getz (Ann Arbor, Mich.), Dorian Weber (Henley-on-Thames, UK), Brendan Mulvey (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.), Tobin McGee (Rye, N.Y.), Bryan Pape (Simsbury, Conn.) and David Morgenstern (Simsbury, Conn.) concluded the medal haul for the U.S., finishing third behind Italy and Australia.
“Assembling the boat this summer, getting us here was a long, long journey with a lot of bumps and hiccups along the way,” said Hwang. “It’s not the result we were looking for. I thought we had a little bit more speed to show, but it’s great to be here representing the United States.”
Also rowing in a medal race was the men’s pair with coxswain crew of Stephen Young (Tampa, Fla.), Matt Wheeler (Eugene, Ore.) and Rob Munn (Redmond, Wash.), who faced Germany, France and Italy.
The U.S. trailed for much of the race, challenged for third in the last five hundred meters, but fell back and finished fourth. Italy won gold. Germany was second and France was third.
In semifinal racing, 13 was the lucky number for the United States.
That’s how long it has been since a lightweight men’s four got into the finals. It happened again Friday, when the crew of Robin Prendes (Miami, Fla.), Anthony Fahden (Lafayette, Calif.), Robert Duff (Huntingdon Valley, Pa.) and Will Daly (Vail, Colo.) rowed past Italy in the sprint and crossed third to advance to the Sunday final.
After a sluggish start, the U.S. rowed from fifth place into fourth going into the last 500 meters, and had Italy within sight as they neared the finish line. Jumping the rate up and driving, the U.S. rowed past Italy and crossed in third in 6:10.32.
Denmark was first in 6:06.91 and France was second in 6:09.31. They will be joined in the final by Great Britain (6:08.18), New Zealand (6:08.81) and South Africa (6:09.74.).
“I’ve never made an A final in the four, so this is really exciting,” said Beijing Olympian Will Daly, the boat veteran who has rowed in the event four times starting in Beijing. “I don’t think a lot of guys, even the guys I started rowing with, have made an A final in a long time, so this is hugely rewarding.”
Daly left the four in 2012 and attempted to make the London Olympic team in the lightweight men’s double sculls with Andrew Campbell, Jr. They won U.S. trials but finished third at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta, and did not get the boat through to the Olympic schedule for the U.S.
“I made a decision to come back this year and go back to the four,” he said. “And this makes everything worth it, because I knew we had a good group of guys who were really special.”
Next it was Logan’s turn. Rowing the women’s single sculls for the first time in her career, the two-time Olympic gold medalist in the women’s eight rowed out of fourth place into third following Australia’s Kim Crow and New Zealand’s Emma Twigg.
Crow, who won silver in the double sculls and bronze in the single in London, led and Twigg was behind her, followed by Logan. All three separated from the rest of the field and finished in that order.
Crow won in 7:42.82. Twigg was second in 7:47.63 and Logan was third in 7:54.15.
In the men’s double sculls, John Graves (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Benjamin Dann (Pound Ridge, N.Y.) finished sixth in their semifinal and now row in the B final Sunday.
The women’s double sculls crew of Ellen Tomek (Flushing, Mich.) and Meghan O’Leary (Baton Rouge, La.) also did not advance from the semifinals, finishing fourth. They row in the B final Sunday.
In B finals racing on Friday, the U.S. had three crews in competition including the lightweight men’s and women single sculls, lightweight men’s pair and lightweight men’s quadruple sculls.
Lightweight men’s single sculler, Andrew Campbell, Jr. (New Canaan, Conn.) was edged from the A final Thursday and came back Friday to win his B final race, finishing seventh overall.
Lightweight women’s single sculler, Michelle Sechser (Folsom, Calif.) followed and also won her race, finishing seventh overall.
The lightweight men’s quad crew of Andrew Quinn (Honeoye Falls, N.Y.), Colin Ethridge (Laytonsville, Md.), Dave Smith (Seattle, Wash.) and Shane Madden (Ambler, Penn.) wrapped up B finals racing for the U.S. They won their race and finished seventh overall.
The U.S. had three crews in C finals Friday including the men’s pair, men’s single sculls and men’s quadruple sculls.
The men’s pair crew of Alex Karwoski (Hollis, N.H.) and Michael DiSanto (Boston, Mass.) finished second in their race for an overall 14th place in the event.
In the men’s quadruple sculls, the crew of Derek Johnson (Hillsborough, Calif.), Hans Struzyna (Kirkland, Wash.), Andrew Gallagher (Phoenix, Ariz.) and Ryan Shelton (Wrightwood, Calif.) won their race and finished 13th overall.
Men’s single sculler Stephen Whelpley (Moquon, Wis.) also won his race and finished 13th overall.
Racing continues Saturday at 1:30 p.m. local time (+13 hours EST). A complete schedule and results are available at www.worldrowing.com.
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Ed Moran, firstname.lastname@example.org. Photos by Allison Frederick