After enduring an unscheduled day off due to unrowable conditions, Olympic rowing resumes on Monday of the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. A reshuffled schedule will accommodate both the races originally scheduled for Sunday and Monday.
The biggest boats in the Olympic program take to the waters on Monday, with both the U.S. men’s and women’s eights in action.
The U.S. comes into the Rio Olympics on a massive ten-year winning streak—even with changing personnel, the crew has not lost at the world championships or Olympics since 2005. The team has achieved this with through a high level of training, intense selection, and a program-wide commitment to excellence.
The crew of coxswain Katelin Snyder, Amanda Elmore, two-time Olympic gold-medalist Elle Logan, 2012 champion Meghan Musnicki, Tessa Gobbo, Lauren Schmetterling, Emily Regan, Kerry Simmonds and Amanda Polk takes on the Netherlands, Romania and Australia in the opening heat, with one crew to advance directly to the Olympic final.
Australia is a very late addition to the Olympic field, having been added only after the Russian team was excluded from the Rio Games due to the ongoing Russian doping controversy.
Heat two sees Canada, Great Britain, and 2015 world runners-up New Zealand racing for the direct advancement to the final.
By finishing seventh at the 2015 world championships, the U.S. missed direct qualification in the men’s eight for the Rio Games, and were forced into a dramatic, last-gasp bid to qualify at the so-called “Regatta of Death,” the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland in late May. The U.S. won the event, and the process of bonding as a team seems to have strengthened the resolve of the crew.
“Our backs were against the wall, and we came together as a boat and won the right to continue racing and representing our country,” U.S. seven man Rob Munn told row2k.com. “Those were some of the most exciting and stressful moments of my career.”
In their opening heat, the crew of coxswain Sam Ojserkis, Austin Hack, Munn, Mike Di Santo, Stephen Kasprzk, 2012 Olympic men’s four bronze-medalist Glenn Ochal, Alex Karwoski, Hans Struzyna and Sam Dommer face the daunting task of taking on Germany, 2015 world runners-up and reigning Olympic champs, and Poland. Only the winner of the heat will advance directly to the final.
In heat two, medal contenders the Netherlands will take on New Zealand, 2015 world champions Great Britain, and Italy, who also came into the Olympic regatta very late as a result of the exclusion of the Russian men’s eight from the Olympic regatta.
The New Zealand double of Julia Edward and Sophie Mackenzie has captured the past two world championships, in 2014 and 2015, and arrives in Rio as the favorites. However, they and rest of the field will not be looking past the very strong Canada combination of Patricia Obee and Lindsay Jennerich, who upset New Zealand to win in Lucerne.
China, the Netherlands, Poland and the defending Olympic champs Great Britain, who return crew member Katherine Copeland from the London crew, are also in the mix.
The U.S. combination of Kate Bertko and Devery Karz will also be looking for a shot at the final, and a chance at the podium. The crew has shown great speed in time trials, but is without significant international experience together.
The French double of Jeremie Azou and Pierre Houin has set the pace thus far in 2016, and arrive in Rio as the favorites. The Great Britain duo of Will Fletcher and Richard Chambers have raced strongly this season, and will hope to continue the GB tradition of success in this event, while the South Africans John Smith and James Thompson won the world championship in 2014, and are looking for more.
The reigning Olympic champions, Rasmus Quist and Mads Rasmussen of Denmark are also competing in Rio, but have looked a shadow of their gold-medal selves thus far in 2016.
The U.S. pairing of Andrew Campbell and Josh Konieczny have shown they can produce the speed to run with the top crews in the event. A great result for this crew would be a spot in the final and possibly a run at the medals.
Great Britain’s “Golden Girls,” Heather Stanning and Helen Glover, who in London became the GB’s first-ever Olympic gold medalists in rowing, arrive at Rio as reigning world and Olympic champions, having seen off all challenges since London.
However, the GB duo will see sturdy challenges from the New Zealand pairing of Genevieve Behrent and Rebecca Scown (who will also compete in the New Zealand women’s eight in Rio), and the US combination of Grace Luczak and Felice Mueller.
Mueller and Luczak took gold at the Rowing World Cup in Lucerne in May, an event at which Stanning and Glover withdrew due to illness. Mueller and Luczak have shown good speed throughout 2016, and have a chance to upset Great Britain.
The Men’s Four has been the Great Britain’s domain since the 2000 Sydney Games, and Rio is looking no different as the strongest entry once again hails from the British isles. After winning the men’s eight in 2015, the GB squad opted to form their strongest entry in the men’s four in the run up to Rio, and the crew has not disappointed, bagging wins at two Rowing World Cup events and the 2016 European championship.
The toughest challenge to the GB to date has come from Australia, who was on course to upset the Brits at Lucerne before a rower’s mistake caused the Australian boat to stop just short of the finish line. The Netherlands also fields a strong crew in this event.
With two London 2012 bronze medalists aboard, the U.S. is in the medal hunt as well. Henrik Rummel and Charlie Cole return from the crew that reached the podium in London, and with newcomers Matt Miller and Seth Weil have already topped the podium once this season, at the Rowing World Cup in Varese.
Monday’s repechage, or second-chance races are split between the morning and the afternoon. These races give crews another chance to advance in their events.
The U.S. will have three crews in the repechages, with the women's double sculls of Ellen Tomek and Meghan O'Leary looking to bounce back from a bobble during their opening race on Saturday, and the men's pair of Nareg Guregian and Anders Weiss looking for a berth in the semifinals.
Additionally, the U.S. women’s quadruple sculls crew of Adrienne Martelli, Megan Kalmoe, Tracy Eisser and Grace Latz is looking to bounce back from their performance in the opening heat and earn a spot in the Olympic final.