Carling Zeeman advances to the medal round in the women’s single and qualifies for the Rio Olympics in the process. Photo: Katie Steenman Images.
Day 6 – September 4th, 2015.
Wisps of steam rose from the lake as the sun burned its way through the clouds on a cool morning in Aiguebelette.
Following days of scattered showers and overcast skies, the sunshine reemerged, causing the lake to sparkle, almost as if in anticipation of the gold, silver and bronze medals that are to be awarded this weekend.
A more beautiful rowing venue would be difficult to find. Nestled at the edge of the Alps, Aiguebelette is only 70 kilometers from both Albertville and Grenoble, both former Olympic cities. It is also down the road from Chambery (where the Canadian athletes are staying), the historical capital of the Savoy region that sits at the crossroads of ancient routes through Burgundy, Switzerland, and Italy.
The only route however that concerned the athletes today was the 2000 meter racecourse, which if navigated properly, rewarded crews with a pass into the medal rounds.
Katherine Sauks was the first race on the program for Canada. Learning from her semi-final yesterday, the Canadian sculler raced a much more controlled race in the B final today.
“I knew I needed to calm down at the start and be patient,” said Sauks after her final. “It’s a long race and I couldn’t waste all of my energy in the first half.”
Working her way strategically through the field the length of the course, Sauks crossed the line in 3rdplace, only 1.17 seconds behind Lithuania, the eventual winner.
“I am much happier with my race today,” explained the Pan American gold medalist. “And I am excited for what lies ahead!”
Sauks finished the regatta in 9th place. This was her first world championship experience.
The lightweight men’s four of Maxwell Lattimer, Brendan Hodge, Nicolas Pratt and Eric Woelfl were up next for Canada.
Racing against the current world champions Denmark, the Canadian foursome knew they were in for a fight.
“We have definitely rowed better,” said Pratt, 3-seat in the crew. “It is such a competitive field that the minute you hesitate, you fall behind. We are going to have to row better in the final.”
The Danes, who led from pillar to post, let the other crews scramble behind them for the remaining two qualifying spots.
“We are going to have to find a good rhythm and trust it,” continued Pratt, in reference to their B final. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, we just have to execute the basics.”
Denmark, The Netherlands and New Zealand advance to the medal round. The Canadians will attempt to qualify their boat for Rio on Sunday.
Carling Zeeman, racing the women’s single for the first time at a World Championships, not only advanced to the medal round, but also qualified the boat for the Rio Games.
The 24-year-old sculler, who emptied the tank in a spectacular semi-final, was sitting in fifth place at the ¾ marker.
“I hit the panic button with 600 meters to go and gave it everything I had.” said an exhausted Zeeman.
Moving through the Belarusian and the Lithuanian, Zeeman secured herself a third place finish.
“It’s all pretty surreal right now, I don’t think any of this has sunk in yet,” said Zeeman.
And what’s her plan for the final?
“To have fun. I’m clearly the underdog,” continued Zeeman. “So I want to put some pressure on the big names in this event and make them sweat a bit.”
Along with Australia and Switzerland, Zeeman will race in the medal round on Sunday.
The afternoon program began with Pascal Lussier, racing the C/D semi-final, in the men’s single. Settling into a solid rhythm, Lussier was confident he could progress to the next round.
“A tailwind was blowing down the course so I relaxed as much as possible, rowed efficiently, and I let the wind do much of the work,” explained Lussier. “If I race with the same consistent efficiency on Saturday, I will have a great race.”
Lussier will contest the C final tomorrow, determining his world ranking between 13th and 18th position.
The final race of the afternoon involved Katharine Goodfellow and Antje von Seydlitz who raced the D final in the women’s double.
The duo, who won a silver medal in the women’s quadruple sculls event at the World Championships in South Korea in 2013, have had a disappointing regatta.
Narrowly missing out on progressing to semi-final A/B two days ago, the Canadians have struggled to deal with the bumpy, afternoon conditions in the latter part of the week.
“We didn’t handle the chop well today and fell behind the leaders,” said von Seydlitz. “We fought our way back when the water calmed down, but it was not enough.”
Goodfellow and von Seydlitz crossed the line in fourth position, finishing with a world ranking of 22nd.
And that concludes the sixth day of racing on Lac d’Aiguebelette.
Tomorrow commences the medal rounds in the Olympic class events. Crews in the hunt for hardware, and who have already qualified for the Rio Games, include the women’s pair, the lightweight women’s double, and the men’s four. The men’s pair and the men’s quadruple sculls will be attempting to secure qualification spots for Brazil.
Final results in France thus far:
LTAMix4+ : Bronze
LW1x : 9th
Racing tomorrow: W2-,M2-,LW2x,M4-,M4x, M1x