Illness forces twins to withdraw In Lucerne
Kiwi team on form in Lucerne - but illness forces twins to withdraw
Heat wins for Mahé Drysdale, Emma Twigg, Duncan Grant, Nathan Twaddle and George Bridgewater, Nathan Cohen and Rob Waddell, Storm Uru and Peter Taylor and the men's coxless four plus a second place for Nicky Coles and Juliette Haigh showed the New Zealand rowing team was right on track as Day 1 of heats progressed at the team's first international regatta this season in Lucerne.
But there was bad luck for the Olympic champions Caroline and Georgina Evers Swindell in the women's double scull, with the crew deciding to withdraw from the event on medical advice after Georgina started showing signs of a cold. With a heavy training schedule ahead of them in coming days and weeks, it was decided there was nothing to be gained from racing in a world class field at 95% and the duo will now look to Poznan to show their form.
Out on the Rotsee course, first up was lightweight single scull world champion Duncan Grant - competing in the non-Olympic class of the single scull - and he dominated his heat to win by almost six seconds. He had a handy three quarter length lead at 500 metres, and showed excellent form to scull away from athletes from the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Canada and Algeria.
Under-23 champion Emma Twigg was next up, and after a very competitive regatta in Munich two weeks ago, dominated her heat leading all the way to finish in 7 minutes 38.09 seconds. Only sixth fastest of the qualifiers though, she will have more pace to find and will have a close eye on the Chinese sculler Xiuyun Zhang, the only athlete to break seven and a half minutes in the heats.
World champion Mahe Drysdale secured his place in the semi with a heat win, cruising out behind Switzerland's Andre Vornarburg before moving through at half way and sculling out to a five second margin at the close. Arch rivals Marcel Hacker, Ondrej Synek, Alan Campbell, Olaf Tufte and Lassi Karonen were amongst those to progress, and all had similar times. The scene is already set for a cracking pair of semi finals, with the final a mouth watering prospect.
In the women's coxless pairs, the 2005 world champions Nicky Coles and Juliette Haigh had a tough looking race against the Chinese number two boat and the USA in their heat. The girls chased the USA and got themselves ahead of the Chinese at halfway. The USA were never more than a length ahead, and the experienced kiwi pair came through in a strong second place to book their place in the semi-final.
In the men's coxless pair Nathan Twaddle and George Bridgewater - champions in 2005 - lined up against the Chinese number one boat, the Irish, the French and South Africa. The New Zealanders led at half way and with only first place securing direct qualification to the semi-final, they did what they had to do and took control of the race. At the end they had a commanding one and a half length lead over South Africa and will have been very encouraged with their pace in their first race of the season. Australians Duncan Free and Drew Ginn had a tougher time of it. They also won their heat but - like many other crews - will have noted the pace of their Chinese opposition. In their case it was the second choice Chinese men's pair that kept them honest and finished a length or so in arrears.
All eyes were on 2000 Olympic Champion Rob Waddell making his international comeback in the men's double scull with Nathan Cohen. This boat qualified for Beijing with a great row to make the final at the Munich world championships last year in the hands of Cohen and Matthew Trott, and on its first appearance internationally it looked to have made significant progress with the addition of powerhouse Waddell. In the heat, the duo faced Luca Spik and Iztok Cop - the former Olympic champions - and the race developed into a real dog fight between the two crews for direct qualification to the semi. Neck and neck with 500 metres to go Waddell and Cohen made their move and took the lead from the Solvenians, taking an impressive clear water win.
Next up was the men's coxless four and the world champions had a smooth passage to their heat win, clocking 5 minutes 58 seconds defeating Germany and Canada. The French, Dutch and British crews appeared in the next heat, and the British would have been disappointed with third, even though they were rowing with at least one substitute due to persistent injuries amongst the group of six vying for a place in the boat. In a much closer race the French won, followed by the Dutch and then the Brits.
New Zealand has yet to qualify boats for Beijing in the men’s and women’s lightweight double sculls and in the women’s event Candice Hammond and Louise Ayling found themselves in a tough race with crews from five continents battling it out. China won and New Zealand came a creditable fourth behind them, Denmark and Cuba, with another shot in the rep to make the prized A or even B finals – a placing that would show they were on track for a good showing at the last chance regatta in Poznan. Storm Uru and Peter Taylor put a disappointing Munich behind them with a much better row on the heat to win and put their marker down for the next round of racing on Saturday.
New Zealand’s men's team spare man Matthew Trott also got to race, and finished sixth in his heat of the single scull, just a couple of seconds away from Brasil's experienced top sculler Anderson Nocetti. Mathew will race again in the repechage.