Canada’s Julien Bahain racing today the semifinal in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Photo credit: Katie Steenman Images, courtesy of Rowing Canada Aviron.
August 29, 2014
A mix of semifinals and non-Olympic event finals filled the rowing programme today in the Dutch capital.
Also known as international events, these non-Olympic finals are raced at World Cup regattas and the World Championships every year, but not at the prestigious Summer Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) strictly controls the number of athletes who can compete at the Games, with each sport being allowed a certain number of competitors. Because of this, the international governing body for rowing has selected 14 events that showcase rowing at the Olympics, the remainder are classified as International events.
Canada had a couple of crews racing for medals in two such International events today, in addition to a semifinal and some ranking races.
And as the weather continued to change on an hourly basis, the prevailing trend today was wind, a lot of wind. Chicago may be nicknamed the Windy City, but Amsterdam could rightly usurp it for the title.
As Day 6 of the Championships unfolded, the wind became increasingly stronger throughout the day, with many world’s best times falling victim with the help of Mother Nature.
The men’s double was the first crew to race for Canada.
Although out of the medal rounds, the duo of Michael Wilkinson and Steven van Knotsenburg continued racing today to determine their world ranking.
“We rowed better today,” said van Knotsenburg, “and despite being in the C-final, it will still be a close race, and we look forward to finishing the regatta on a solid note.”
Finishing third today, they will have one final race tomorrow to receive a ranking between 13th and 18th.
As the lightweight men’s double prepared for their final race of the regatta, the tailwind increased in stature.
The duo of Nicolas Pratt and Alexander Walker, competing at their first senior World Championships, placed third in their race, finishing 15th overall.
“We got an honest evaluation of where we stand,” commented Walker, following his race.
And while the twosome received their first dose of the very competitive lightweight events at the senior level, the young Walker was reflective as he dissected the week.
“We left it all on the course. Clearly they are doing something differently than us. We have to figure out what that is.”
The afternoon session had one Canadian crew contesting a semifinal.
Julien Bahain, representing Canada for the first time this summer, was back in the single on the Bosbaan.
The field of 31 men had been downsized to 12 athletes, six in each semifinal.
Bahain had his work cut out for himself in his race. The single sculler was within reach of the leaders in the first half, where the water conditions were much calmer.
“I should have stuck with the Cuban from the start,” Bahain later said, “that was my mistake”.
The Cuban, who was leading the field at the halfway mark, was in the lane next to the Canadian sculler. Bahain had raced him earlier in the week in the heat and had beaten him comfortably.
“The second half of the course was too rough, I could no longer race, everyone was just holding on,” he concluded.
Germany, Olympic Champion New Zealand, and Cuba moved on to the final. Bahain crossed the line in fourth and will race the B-final on Sunday, giving him a ranking between 7th and 12th.
The women’s four of Kerry Shaffer, Jennifer Martins, Kristin Bauder and Sarah Black were Canada’s first medal chance of the Championships.
In a final that saw the New Zealand women smash the world’s best time by a whopping 11 seconds, the Canadians struggled to keep pace with their Kiwi counterparts.
“It’s a disappointing result,” said Black referring to their 5th place finish, “but I trust we did our best out there.”
Martins and Bauder will move into the pair and contest the B-final tomorrow.
In the lightweight women’s single, Victoria native Teresa Berkholtz, in her first international regatta at this level, had been impressive with her qualification into the final.
Knowing that the conditions in the second half of the race were challenging, Berkholtz tried to take an advantage over her competitors in the first half.
“I really went for it at the beginning. I knew how bumpy the water was going to get down the course,” said Berkholtz with mixed emotion.
Unable to sustain such a pace and rhythm, the lightweight sculler faded in the latter part of the 2000 meter distance.
“I am happy to have made the final in my first international regatta, but disappointed to not have got that medal,” she later said.
To the collective gasps and then cheers of the crowd, Belgium almost came to a complete stop after taking a series of bad strokes in the last 150 meters. Regaining control, she was able to sprint past Greece and claim the title.
Finals continue tomorrow, resuming at 13:33 local time. Canada has three crews hunting for medals.
Today’s SEMIFINALS will air on Rogers SportsNet One in Canada, between 3 – 5pm EST.
Online streaming with audio commentary for the racing continues to be available throughout the week of competition at www.worldrowing.com.
Live video streaming for the Olympic class events also continues to be available from now until August 31st at www.worldrowing.com.
Athlete biographies of Canada’s national rowing team are available at www.rowingcanada.org.
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