Lightweight Women’s Double Wins Heat at 2018 World Rowing Championships

PLOVDIV, Bulgaria – The lightweight women’s double sculls won its heat and six United States’ crews advanced on Sunday to highlight the first day of racing at the 2018 World Rowing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

In addition to the lightweight women’s double, the lightweight men’s single sculls, lightweight women’s single sculls, women’s pair and women’s quadruple sculls advanced to the semifinals, while the men’s pair moved on to the quarterfinals during Sunday’s racing.

Coming off of separate bronze-medal performances at the 2017 World Rowing Championships in Sarasota, Emily Schmieg (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Mary Jones (Huntsville, Ala.) got off to a strong start in their heat of the lightweight women’s double sculls on Sunday. The duo took the lead in the first 500 meters and had pulled away from the field before reaching the halfway point of the race. Schmieg and Jones continued to build on their advantage over the second half of the course, winning by nearly nine seconds in a 6:58.59. Poland finished second in a 7:07.52. The American duo, as well as the Polish crew, advanced to Thursday’s semifinals.

“You never know how things will work out until you’re into the first race, so we were really happy to execute what we’ve been working on for the past several weeks,” said Jones.

In the first heat of the day, lightweight men’s single sculler Andrew Campbell (New Canaan, Conn.) finished second in his return to international competition to advance directly to Thursday’s semifinals. Campbell sat in third behind Hungary’s Peter Galambos and Switzerland’s Michael Schmid after the first 500 meters before moving into second behind Schmid in the second quarter of the race. The American continued to track Schmid, who has finished in the top two in all four major international races so far this season, through the middle 1,000 meters, sitting less than two seconds off the pace as the scullers entered the final stretch. At the line, Schmid crossed in a 6:48.49, with Campbell finishing in a 6:51.91.

“I was going into this race looking to do some pretty even pacing, so I was happy to be able to execute on that,” Campbell said. “It’s good to go out there and get things moving. I know it’s always hard to change so many time zones, change into a new schedule. There’s a lot going on, so it’s good to start off right.”

In the lightweight women’s single sculls, Michelle Sechser (Folsom, Calif.) also finished second in her heat to advance to Thursday’s semifinals. Sechser sat in fourth place at the 1,000-meter mark before passing the Dutch and German scullers to move into a qualifying spot. France’s Laura Tarantola took the lead as the scullers entered the second quarter of the race and held off Sechser in the final 500 meters to earn the victory. Tarantola finished with a time of 7:35.03, with Sechser clocking a 7:36.38.

“It was a little bouncy out there today,” said Sechser. “The tailwind kept building and made it a little messy, but it was fun to get things kicked off.”

With three to advance to Thursday’s semifinals, the women’s pair of Vicky Opitz (Middleton, Wis.) and Gia Doonan (Rochester, Mass.) finished third to earn a qualification spot. New Zealand’s Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast, the defending world champions, took a commanding lead early in the race and let the rest of the field vie for the second and third spots. In a tight battle with Ireland, the U.S. boat held second position through the 1,500-meter mark before the Irish crew inched ahead in the final stretch. New Zealand finished with a time of 6:56.06, with Ireland crossing in a 7:11.51. The U.S. finished with a time of 7:13.02.

“I think we’re pretty relieved about advancing and not having to tack on another race, since we’re doubling up,” said Doonan, who is also racing with Opitz as part of the women’s eight.

The women’s quadruple sculls crew of Elizabeth Sonshine (Short Hills, N.J.), Emily Huelskamp (Sainte Genevieve, Mo.), Maureen McAuliffe (Herndon, Va.) and Kara Soucek (McCall, Idaho) advanced to Thursday’s semifinals thanks to a third-place finish in its heat. Germany led from start to finish, with Great Britain finishing second. The U.S. boat sat in third position the entire way down the course. Germany won the race in a 6:17.90, with Great Britain clocking a 6:20.04. The Americans finished with a time of 6:22.15.

“We’re glad that we were able to progress, and we’re ready to get faster throughout the regatta,” Sonshine said.

In the men’s double sculls, John Graves (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Ben Davison (Inverness, Fla.) finished third in their heat and will now race in a repechage on Wednesday. With only one to advance to the semifinals, Great Britain took the early lead with Norway keeping it close through the halfway mark. However, the British crew pulled away in the third 500 meters to earn the qualification spot in a 6:10.07. The U.S. got off the line in fifth before moving into third position after just crossing over the 1,000-meter mark. Graves and Davison crossed the line in a 6:15.99.

The men’s pair of Michael Colella (Kensington, Md.) and Anders Weiss (Barrington, R.I.) advanced to Wednesday’s quarterfinals thanks to a fourth-place finish in its heat. Germany overtook Australia in the final 500 meters to win the race, with New Zealand finishing third. The U.S. rowed in fifth position through the midway point before passing The Netherlands for the final qualification spot. Germany won the race in a 6:24.43. The U.S. clocked a 6:29.25.

In the men’s single sculls, first-time national team member Kevin Meador (Berkeley, Calif.) finished fourth in his heat and now will race in a repechage on Monday. Meador sat in fourth position the entire way down the course. Belarus’ Dzianis Mihal won the race in a 6:51.43, with Germany’s Oliver Zeidler finishing a close second. Israel’s Dani Fridman finished third. Meador finished with a time of 6:57.53.

The men’s four of Alexander Richards (Watertown, Mass.), Michael Clougher (Canton, Mass.), Nick Mead (Strafford, Pa.) and Dariush Aghai (Skokie, Ill.) also finished fourth in its heat and will race in the repechages on Tuesday. With two to advance to the semifinals, The Netherlands pulled away from South Africa in the final sprint to win the race in a 5:48.61. The U.S. rowed in third position through the 1,000-meter mark before dropping to fourth behind Denmark over the back half of the race. The American boat finished with a time of 5:55.37.

In the lightweight men’s double sculls, Hugh McAdam (Hollis, N.H.) and Peter Schmidt (Providence, R.I.) finished fifth in their heat and will race in a repechage on Monday. McAdam and Schmidt got off the line in fifth and could never move into a qualifying position for the quarterfinals. Norway won the race in a 6:24.68. The U.S. boat clocked a 6:37.28.

In the men’s quadruple sculls, Erik Frid (Madbury, N.H.), Michael Knippen (Germantown, Wis.), Gregory Ansolabehere (Bakersfield, Calif.) and Justin Keen (Hatfield, Pa.) finished sixth in their heat and will race in a repechage on Thursday. With one to advance to the final, the U.S. sat in fourth position through the 1,000-meter mark before dropping to sixth. Poland overtook Germany during the back half of the race to earn the victory, crossing the line in a 5:39.13. The U.S. finished in a 5:51.18.

Six U.S. crews will hit the water for the first time on Monday during their heats.

In 2017, the U.S. won its fourth consecutive silver medal in the PR3 mixed four with coxswain. This year’s boat includes coxswain Jenny Sichel (Clifton, N.J.), Danielle Hansen (Patterson, Calif.), Charley Nordin (Alameda, Calif.), Mike Varro (Spooner, Wisc.) and Allie Reilly (North Kingstown, R.I.) Sichel, Hansen and Varro return from last year’s silver-medal boat. The crew will take on Canada, Poland, Tunisia, Ukraine and Sri Lanka in the second of two heats, with the winner advancing directly to the final.

The lightweight women’s quadruple sculls crew of Michaela Copenhaver (Berkeley, Calif.), Christine Cavallo (Windermere, Fla.), Margaret Bertasi (London, England) and Hillary Saeger (Dedham, Mass.) will take on China and Great Britain in the second of two heats. The winner will advance directly to the final, with the other two crews moving to a repechage. All four women are newcomers to the boat this year, although three have international experience. This will be Saeger’s seventh national team, while Bertasi and Cavallo have international experience on the junior and under 23 levels. At this year’s World Cup III, China won the gold medal.

In the lightweight men’s quadruple sculls, the U.S. crew of James Nelson (Austin, Texas), Alexander Loy (Ballston Lake, N.Y.), Sam Hausmann (Buffalo, N.Y.) and Michael Landuyt (Grosse Pointe, Mich.) will take on boats from Turkey, Germany, Hungary, Algeria and Denmark in the first of two heats, with the winner moving on to the final. The U.S. finished 16th in the event in 2017.

After finishing fourth in the event last year, the U.S. will be looking to reach the medal podium in the women’s four in 2018. The crew of Erin Reelick (Brookfield, Conn.), Molly Bruggeman (Dayton, Ohio), Erin Boxberger (Overland Park, Kan.) and Madeline Wanamaker (Neenah, Wis.) will take on China, New Zealand and Italy in the second of three heats on Monday, with the top three moving directly into the semifinals. Bruggeman and Reelick return from last year’s crew. The U.S. took third and fourth in the event at the 2018 World Rowing Cup III race in Lucerne.

Coming off a silver-medal finish in 2017, Meghan O’Leary (Baton Rouge, La.) and Ellen Tomek (Flushing, Mich.) are aiming to return to the medal stand this year. Last year’s silver-medal finish was the best in U.S. history in the event. On Monday, the crew will race against Poland, Greece, France, Great Britain and the Czech Republic in the first of three heats. The top two crews will advance directly to the semifinals.

Coming off a fourth-place finish at the world cup race in Lucerne, Kara Kohler (Clayton, Calif.) will be taking on scullers from Austria, Russia, Ukraine, Italy and Qatar in the second of four heats, with only the winner moving directly into the semifinals. Austria’s Magdalena Lobnig finished second in the event at the European Championships and fifth in Lucerne.

Close to 950 athletes from 62 countries are scheduled to race in Plovdiv. The U.S. has the largest team, with entries in 27 of the 29 events across the eight-day event. The regatta offers racing in the men’s and women’s single sculls, lightweight single sculls, double sculls, lightweight double sculls, pair, lightweight pair, quadruple sculls, lightweight quadruple sculls, four and eight, as well as the para-rowing men’s and women’s PR1 single sculls, men’s and women’s PR2 single sculls, PR2 mixed double sculls, PR3 mixed double sculls and the PR3 mixed four with coxswain.

Racing runs through Sunday, September 16. Finals will take place over the last three days, beginning on Friday, September 14.

Complete press coverage, athlete bios and links to event information are available at www.usrowing.org and www.worldrowing.com. Follow along with the U.S. National Team at the 2018 World Rowing Championships by using the hashtags #WRChamps and #WRC2018.

World Rowing recently partnered with NBC Sports Group for coverage of the World Rowing Cups, European Championships and World Championships for the next three years.

The first four days of racing (Sunday through Wednesday) will be streamed live on the Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA (OlympicChannel.com) and the Olympic Channel app or via authentication on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app, which includes NBCSN’s coverage.

The Olympic Channel television network will broadcast live the final four days of the event (Thursday through Sunday), while NBCSN will broadcast a highlight show on Friday and Sunday night. Click here for the most up-to-date broadcast schedule.

Live-streaming will not be available on www.worldrowing.com, but the VOD clips will be available 24 hours after the event.

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