The second day of Olympic rowing medal finals at the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas in Rio promises excitement, intrigue, and two U.S. medal possibilities. Medals are up for grabs in the women's pair, men's and women's lightweight double sculls and men's four.
The U.S. pairing of Grace Luczak and Felice Mueller has been shading the women's pair gold-medal favorites from Great Britain, Heather Stanning and Helen Glover all summer. The U.S. duo posted a win at the Rowing World Cup in Lucerne, when Glover and Stanning withdrew due to illness, and the U.S. posted the fastest time in the preliminary heats in Rio, but in Thursday’s semifinal Glover and Stanning left no doubt who the favorites were, taking the win decisively.
While the U.S. still favored to take a medal, and possibly challenge Great Britain for the gold, other challengers have emerged that will make the final a barnburner. Denmark’s Hedvig Rasmussen and Anne Andersen gave Glover and Stanning all they could handle in the preliminaries, and will need to be reckoned with, while the strong New Zealand pairing of Sonia Scown and Julia Behrent are the reigning world silver-medalists.
In the men’s lightweight double sculls, Jeremie Azou and Pierre Houin of France are the gold-medal favorites going in, but the U.S. duo of Andrew Campbell and Josh Konieczny inserted themselves into the conversation with a superb semifinal race, blitzing the field in finishing just behind the French for a spot in the medal race.
Besides France and the U.S., crews from South Africa, Norway, Poland and Ireland will race for the medals, in what is considered one of the deepest fields at this Olympic regatta.
The lightweight women’s double sculls has been the least predictable event in Rio, with late Olympic qualifiers Ilse Paulis and Maaike Head of the Netherlands seemingly coming out of nowhere to emerge as the gold-medal favorites going into Friday’s race. The Dutch crew has posted the fastest times at every point of the regatta thus far.
Other medal contenders are South Africa’s Ursula Grobler and Kirsten McCann, Canada’s Patricia Obee and Lindsay Jennerich, and the reigning world champions, Sophie Mackenzie and Julia Edward of New Zealand.
The U.S. crew in this event, Kate Bertko and Devery Karz, fell to fifth in their semifinal race, and did not qualify for the medal final. They will compete in the B-final for places 7-12.
The Great Britain men’s four of Alex Gregory, Mohamed Sbihi, George Nash and Constantine Louloudis has looked untouchable throughout the regatta and are poised to extend Great Britain’s gold medal streak in this event to five straight Olympics. Gregory is the only returning member of the team that won gold in London four years ago, but despite the crew changes, Great Britain has not missed a beat.
The Australia crew of Will Lockwood, Josh Dunkley-Smith, Josh Booth and Alex Hill appear to be the only crew who could challenge Great Britain--in fact, the Aussies were leading Great Britain at the Rowing World Cup in Lucerne before a mistake by one of the rowers at the finish line allowed Great Britain to sneak ahead for the win. The two teams have not met head-to-head in Rio yet, but both have looked impressive. Canada, South Africa, Italy and the Netherlands complete the lineup for the final.
The U.S. crew of Seth Weil, Matt Miller, Henrik Rummel and Charlie Cole could not qualify for the final and will race in the B-final for Olympic places 7-12.
Friday will also see the semifinals of the men’s and women’s single sculls to determine the competitors that will make up the gold-medal races for each of these events. The U.S.’s Gevvie Stone has rowed an unblemished regatta thus far, with wins in her heat and quarterfinal, and is considered a medal prospect. Stone takes on the Czech Republic’s Mirka Knapkova, the reigning Olympic champion, Denmark’s Fie Udby Erichsen and seven-time Olympian Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus, and must finish in the top three to advance to the gold-medal race.
In the men’s single sculls, reigning Olympic champion Mahe Drysdale takes on Belgium’s Hannes Obreno, the sculler who surprisingly defeated him earlier this summer, and Great Britain’s Alan Campbell, bronze medalist in London 2012. In the other semifinal current world champion Ondrej Synek, Croatia’s Damir Martin and Cuba’s Angel Fournier Rodriguez are expected to the gold-medal final.