Do-or-die action comes to the Olympic rowing in Rio on Tuesday, as crews in four events race the semifinals for the all-important slots in the medal races later this week. Semifinals action takes place in the men’s pair, men’s and women’s double sculls and lightweight men’s four.
The U.S. has three crews in action vying for finals, while Gevvie Stone, the U.S. women’s single sculler, races in the quarterfinal round.
Based on their performance in the opening heat, the U.S. lightweight men’s four of Tyler Nase, Edward King, Anthony Fahden and Robin Prendes have every right to be optimistic about securing a spot in Thursday’s gold medal race.
The semis will be a doozy however, as the U.S. will need to survive a loaded draw including the event’s fastest qualifier Denmark, reigning world champs Switzerland, and fast qualifiers Greece.
New Zealand’s Eric Murray and Hamish Bond continue their march towards their second consecutive Olympic gold medal in Tuesday’s semifinal, with the only question seemingly being who can finish closest to the Kiwis. Even in the rough water on the opening day of the games, Murray and Bond looked untroubled in moving out to a big win.
The U.S. "cinderella" crew of Anders Weiss and Nareg Guregian, who were the last boat selected to the U.S. Olympic rowing team, will be in action in the semis, seeking a berth in the medal race. Three crews from each of the two semifinals will advance to Thursday’s medal final.
As the reigning world champs, New Zealand is also favored in the women’s double sculls, but the fastest times from the opening round came from Lithuania and Great Britain, who fought a blistering duel in their qualifying heat to post times nearly 10 seconds ahead of the other two heat winners and medal contenders, Poland and New Zealand.
Semifinal one pits the Lithuanians against New Zealand as the top two of six boats, while Great Britain takes on Poland in semifinal two.
The U.S. crew of Ellen Tomek and Meghan O’Leary, which qualified for the semifinal with a strong row in the repechage on Monday, will race in semifinal one with Lithuania and New Zealand, Greece, China and Germany. Only the top three crews from each of the two semifinal will advance to the medal final.
The Croatian brothers Valent and Martin Sinkovic will look to extend their recent dominance of the event as they contest the semifinal for a spot in the medal final. Croatia will face the Norway crew of Kjetil Borch and Olaf Tufte. Tufte is a six-time Olympian and won the gold medal in the men’s single sculls at the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Games.
The U.S. does not have a crew in this event.
The quarterfinals of the men’s and women’s single scullers will see those athletes who suffered the worst of the opening-day rough water racing, as several key rowers will look to get back on track. While medal contender Emma Twigg of New Zealand survived intact, gold-medal favorite Kim Brennan of Australia barely advanced from the heats, and will need a much better row in order to move on to the semifinals.
U.S. women’s single Gevvie Stone managed to survive the rough conditions intact enroute to winning her opening heat, and will look to move on to the semifinals with a top-three finish in her quarterfinal. Stone has shown great preparation leading up to the Rio Games, and will look to continue her quality performances in the quarterfinals.
Team USA has one crew in action in the repechages, the lightweight women’s double sculls of Kate Bertko and Devery Karz. The U.S. crew will need to finish in the top two of their six-boat repechage in order to advance to Wednesday’s semifinals and have a chance to stay in the medal hunt.
The E/F semifinals raced at the end of Tuesday’s racing will determine the alignments for the lower level placement finals in the men’s and women’s single sculls. These athletes have been eliminated from medal contention, and are racing for their final Olympic placings (and pride) during this competition rounds.