Solid Start in Lucerne
The Second World Cup in Lucerne has been and gone and as a team we have had a very solid start. Personally I am happy with my result and feel right on track to achieve my goals this year despite not winning.
We have come away with 1 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze. 10 of the 11 Olympic crews were in A finals. Overall that is a great start to our Olympic campaign especially when you consider we have only been in Europe now for 8 days.
We would have liked more medals and more golds, but we are still 60 days out from the Olympics, We now all know exactly where we stand compared to our competitors and the most pleasing thing is most crews are fairly well up with the pace and some maybe even ahead of where they expected which is great. Overall as a country we finished 3rd behind GB and Germany so all in all were where we need to be at this point.
So down to the racing. Overall I think we can already see the standard of the whole regatta ramping up in Olympic year. There are new crews popping up that are previously not thought about as contenders and some very tight racing in the front of fields as everyone eyes up their competitors for the first or second time this season. It was a strange regatta and seemed fairly quiet compared to last years world cups. I think there are a few reasons for this, one the qualification regatta was a couple of days prior to this, so now we all know exactly who will be competing at the Olympics. Some of those not qualified have given up for the year and others that qualified, left after the qualifying regatta to rest and regroup for the challenge ahead. In saying that although some fields were small all the top guns in each field were there so the quantity may have been less but the quality was certainly up there.
Friday was heats day and from the Kiwi team all crews got direct entry through to the next round. For the mens four, women’s double, women’s and men’s quads this meant directly through to their respective A finals. For the Lightweight women’s double not only did they dominate their heat to go direct to A final but they also took away the worlds best time for good measure. What’s remarkable is that was in their first international race together. For the rest of the crews it was directly to semi final while for me, due to entries I went direct to Quarter final after a comfortable heat.
The quality of the fields was reflected on Heats day with 7 world best times beaten across 6 events (in the men’s quad it was broken twice within 8 minutes and our boys managed to go under the old mark).
Saturday brought more perfect weather and it was stunning early on. I had a new experience being the first race of the day, which was a very pleasant experience. It was Quarter final time and the intensity was starting to ramp up. I had another solid race improving from the heat and doing enough to win but saving as much as possible for the semi final later in the day.
As I recovered the rest of the kiwi team were out doing battle and all the crews performed well in their respective semis to advance to the A finals. The men’s double were the only crew that struggled with the pace and had to settle for the B final.
I was last up in my semi and had somehow drawn the two other medalists from the Worlds last year, in Synek and Campbell. We had a pretty good battle most of the way down the course all being within half a length for the majority of the race. We were all aware that we wanted to perform well, but no one willing to expend too much energy with the finals the following day. With about 250M to go Synek decided he had done enough to qualify leaving the battle between Campbell and myself. It was a weird end to the race as we both pushed for the line without either of us prepared to go for a flat out sprint. In the end it was bowball to bowball right up to the line where I took the honours on the surge to win by 0.02sec. It doesn’t get much closer than that.
The Kiwis start was already looking promising with 10 of our 11 crews advancing to A finals. After two races in the day I was feeling surprisingly good, although I could trick my legs into thinking they were fresh. After the normal warm down, it was home for some dinner and an early night.
I woke Sunday feeling pretty good, we were down to the lake for an early morning paddle and were greeting by yet another perfect day for rowing on the Rotsee. After stretching the legs it was home for breakfast and to watch the rest of the NZ crews in action.
The women’s pair were first up. Despite a relatively slow start compared to the Brits they showed good fight through the middle to fight it out with the USA for the silver medal, in the end the USA edged ahead and our girls finished with Bronze but well in contention.
The men’s pair continued their dominant unbeaten run to take the gold medal, although did have a fight on their hands through the middle of the race with the Canadians.
The Women’s double struggled to keep pace with the leading 3 crews to finish down in 5th place.
The Lightweight Women, showed their heat was no fluke and they are true contenders, leading the world champion Greek crew the whole race and just missing out on overhauling the fast starting Chinese on the finish line to just miss out on gold but take quite a remarkable silver. Showing they are a crew to watch for the rest of the year.
The lightweight men’s double knew they were in a fight the whole way down the course with one of the closest races of the day. In the end they came from behind to pass a couple of crews in the dying stages to take the silver medal behind the new French combination.
The men’s four in a huge improvement from the 10th in Belgrade 3 weeks ago struggled with the immense pace of the top two crews to come home in 6th position but prove to themselves and the field they are a very competitive crew when they get things right.
The afternoon session involved the quads and singles from a NZ perspective. Both the men’s and Women’s quad were boating reserves due to injury’s but proved they are competitive and should get stronger over the coming weeks. Both performed well and were competitive the whole way taking 5th and 4th respectively.
Emma Twigg struggled a bit all week, recovering from travel ending in 5th in her final but should be back to the form she showed in NZ once she recovers properly from the travel.
I was the next race up and after the semis it was looking like it would be one of the most competitive races of the past few years. From the start the pace was fast and the race furious with all six crews blasting out of the blocks. Through the middle of the race Synek, Campbell, the new guy on the block (Angel from Cuba) and I were in a line across the lake. It was a case of cat and mouse as each of us tried moves to break free of the field. I was having a pretty good race and through the third 500M I started to push the pace, The other 3 all responded but coming up to the 1500M mark there were a few cracks appearing and as the sprint started to develop it was becoming clear that the gold medal would be going to either Synek or myself. As the pace continued to increase the gap between the two of us was nothing but there was soon open water back to the battle for third between Angel and Alan. I managed to eeke out the smallest of advantages, maybe a foot or two but Synek wasn’t yet done and with about 150M to go took up the pace again. I tried to lift again but the body wasn’t prepared to go another step and Synek snuck through to take the win by 0.52sec in a finished very reminiscent to Amsterdam last year.
It was a great race and seems clear that as expected Synek is going to be my main rival this year with plenty of other threats in the field. In the last three finals races we have had with each other, there has never been more than 0.55sec between us (that’s under a canvas or about 1.5M) so every stroke counts and it really comes down to who gets it most right on the day. Synek wont be attending the next world cup, so I may meet him in Amsterdam in a couple of weeks at the Holland Beker or otherwise we will next race at the Olympics. Either way there will be plenty of great competition with Alan in great shape and rowing well and the Cuban sculler being the up and comer to watch.
I am obviously a little disappointed not to bring home the gold from Lucerne, but on the other hand am very pleased with the way I raced over the weekend and feel I still have a number of things I can work on to improve my speed. Before I came over here I said that I would be happy as long as I was on the pace, well I feel a silver medal 0.52sec behind 1st certainly confirms that and my time was the fastest I have been so far this year, which puts me in a great position and confirms I am well on track for London. What is clear is that with the quality in the field it is going to be very tight in London and form suggests whoever wins is likely to win by under 1 sec, so that makes everyday vital and means I have to get everything I can out of each session to make sure I am on the golden side of that small time increment.
I think Lucerne has been a great platform to start the Kiwi teams European campaign and we will all learn from our experiences and come away hungry for more improvements and further success at the world cup in Munich in 3 weeks and onto the Olympics in 60 days time.
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