Men’s Four and Men’s Coxed Pair win heats; Women’s Quadruple Scull finish second in heat
The 2017 World Rowing Championships kicked off today at Nathan Bederson Park in Sarasota, Florida. All three Australian crews in action todayhad strong races and secured berths in their respective semi-finals and A-Finals.
The Men’s Four won their heat comfortably to book a place in Thursday’s semi-finals, the Women’s Quadruple Scull finished second in their heat to secure an A-Final berth for Saturday, while the Men’s Coxed Pair won their heat to progress directly to their A-Final on Friday this week.
In hot and humid conditions, Angus Widdicombe, Darcy Wruck and coxswain James Rook were the first Australians to race at the 2017 World Rowing Championships. The young trio took on Germany and Hungary in their Men’s Coxed Pair heat and needed a top place finish to progress straight to the A-Final.
The Australians came out fast alongside the Germans who took the lead early on. As the crews crossed the halfway mark, Rook called for a significant push and Widdicombe and Wruck responded with gusto to nip ahead of the German crew.
As they continued through the second half of the race, the Australians took almost a canvas lead over their German counterparts, before the Germans began to sprint for the line. However, the Australians had powered ahead enough to cross the line 0.47 of a second ahead of Germany to book a spot in Friday’s A-Final.
Post-race, Angus Widdicombe said: “It was a good race, we went through the process and we executed our race plan really well. James called really well and Darcy and I stuck together through the race so it was good all round.”
The crew qualified automatically to the A-Final with Great Britain who won the other heat, with Widdicombe expecting the British to be their strongest challenger in the final: “The Brits will no doubt be the strongest challengers in the finals, they’ve won the last two World Championships in the boat class, but that said, there was only 0.25 of a second between our finish times.”
The Men’s Four took to the water as the sun began to break through the clouds. Sitting in the stroke seat, Alex Hill, 2016 Olympic silver medallist in this boat class, set the pace early for the crew ensuring they took an early lead over their closest rival, Spain. As the crew of Hill, Spencer Turrin, Jack Hargreaves and Joshua Hicks crossed the halfway mark they were some five seconds ahead of the Spanish, while New Zealand were back in third place.
As they approached the final 500 metres, the Australians reduced their stroke rate to conserve energy, while Spain attempted to catch them at the line. The Australians, in the distinctive green and yellow Empacher boat, crossed the line first in a time of 6 mins 6 seconds and ensured a place in Thursday’s semi-final.
The Women’s Quadruple Scull of Leah Saunders, Genevieve Horton, Rowena Meredith and Caitlin Cronin finished second in their heat after a battle back and forth with the Dutch crew. Leading at the start, the Australians held off a Dutch challenge for the majority of the race in temperatures that were topping 31 degrees.
The Australians still had the lead coming into the final sprint, with the Netherlands, who medalled at the Rio Olympic Games, challenging hard. As the crews crossed the line, it was the Dutch who took the win, with Australia in second, with both crews progressing to the A-Finals.
Women’s Head Coach, John Keogh said: “There’s a little bit of an unknown in racing some of these crews but we knew the Dutch would be good, based upon what they’ve done in the past and how they were in Lucerne. I think to qualify for the A-Final, which was our targets today, is pretty exciting. For the girls it’s their first senior World Championships A-Final.
“They raced really well and had a good profile for the second five hundred which is something we’d been keen to rectify through the year. Between now and the final, we’ll be out there trying to get a little bit better each day.”
Australian races tomorrow (Monday 25 September)
Heat – Lightweight Men’s Quadruple Scull, 10:14 local time (00:14 AEST, 26 September)
Heat – Lightweight Women’s Quadruple Scull, 10:28 local time (00:28 AEST, 26 September)
Heat – Women’s Four, 10:53 local time (00:53 AEST, 26 September)
Heat – Men’s Double Scull, 11:35 local time (01:35 AEST, 26 September)
Heat – Women’s Double Scull, 11:46 local time (01:46 AEST, 26 September)
All races can be live-streamed via www.worldrowing.com