British Rowing at the Olympics

XXVIIth Olympics
September 2000
Rachel Quarrell from the TV coverage of the rowing.
Olympic Reports Struggles of wills in the last repechages - Wednesday September 20th

Live-written stroke-by-stroke coverage of some of the remaining repechage races: Group B.

Lightweight men's four repechage The Danish crew lead off, clearly determined to make up for their difficult heat and rating high. Ireland is also giving it a good go, but having a big challenge from Russia. Coming to 500 metres, the Danes are still in front, and haven't yet rated below 37. Behind them Russia, Ireland and then Japan and Chile, but nobody's quite as passionate about this race as the defending world and Olympic champions. The Danes have had a bit of steering trouble, straightening as they get towards 1250 gone. Excitingly, these guys may just have managed to click back into their old rhythm, after so many problems incorporating their substitute after Pederson's injury earlier in the summer. Behind them, as they steadily draw out to a solid lead, Ireland and Russia are scrapping in their wake. A few hundred metres to go, and the Danes still going like a train, crossing the line a comfortable few seconds up, Russia and Ireland going through in the other places with CHI and JPN bringing up the rear.

Women's quad, repechage 1 A very sprinty start for these three crews, DEN hitting 46 within a few strokes and GBR at 49. GBR push out first, getting it to nearly a length up coming towards the first timing marker at 500 metres. Denmark are following but not matching either pace or power, and China trail increasingly far behind. Through the middle marker the Brits increase their lead, and although all twelve rowers are working hard, the field is spreading right out and the qualification is not in doubt. Two-thirds of the way down the course, GBR drop the rate to much more of a cruise pace, and by now have several clear seconds on the Danes, with China seven lengths further back. A solid row for both the European crews, in a strung-out result.

Women's quad, repechage 2 First off the blocks are the Americans, with the Australians and Romania looking positively steady by comparison, rowing slower and stronger. But the racy rhythm of the USA quad has the edge, the Ukrainians inching up closer as the crews get towards 600 metres gone. Moving towards half-way, the US finishes aren't holding in as well now, and the crew's rating 35, a slower cadence after their rapid start. UKR dog them close now, and these two are so far ahead of AUS and ROM that they don't need to worry about qualifying. Here's the big Ukrainian move, at around 1250 gone, and they smoothly push through the Americans. They can't respond to it, although they don't need to, but still look pretty unhappy with the situation. Ukraine get clear by 450 to go, and continue to move, but aren't racing quite as hard as it looks, rating just 34, without a final sprint. No doubt about the result there: UKR and USA to the A final, ROM and AUS to the B.

Women's eight repechage One race, and four to the A final out of five crews. Plus, of course, the psychological challenge of where the crews finish, deciding the lane order for the last race on Sunday. USA hit the first stroke quickly, AUS very slowly, and the Americans and Belarussians whizz out to show their bows in front to begin with. AUS working hard to make up their lost ground, but still led by CAN and with GBR dropping out of the back. USA still have the honours over BLR as they move through 500, CAN looking quite leisurely by comparison. USA shove in a solid push at 800 metres, aiming to break the Belarussians, and towing AUS along in their wake. Nearing 1500, BLR start to drop, and AUS strain against CAN, but CAN keep the lid on them, and all this pace is completely leaving the British eight behind. Last 200 metres, the Aussies sniff their chance, and as both they and the Canadians move away from BLR and reel the Americans in, it's mano a mano for the second place and the other good lane in the final. USA first, pretty exhausted, photofinish for second, won by CAN over AUS, with BLR taking the last qualifying place.

Men's eight, repechage 1 Pride at stake in both these repechages, as the two crews who on paper looked hotshots for medals fight to reclaim their position after losing heats. First off are the American men, racing Canada and ROM. Nearly ready to start, stumpy US coxswain Pete Cipollone stands up briefly in his seat to check the alignment, and sits down, prepared for the off. A blistering start from all three of these crews, I clock USA at 49.5 strokes per minute before the end of the first five, but a few hundred metres out Romania are holding level, perhaps even heading them. That's just not good enough, and the US eight carry on blasting, moving their bow in front as they near 800 metres, and powering on again to try and extend it even further. CAN not out of the story, several seats overlapping with ROM in third and second respectively. ROM see this, and give it some serious welly, heaving back towards the USA, nearly going clear of CAN. 300 metres to go, CAN take up the challenge and fight back, and this little battle has reeled the USA in strongly, putting them under considerable pressure. There's just two feet in it between USA and ROM, and it's clear these two will manage to get through and dump Canada, but now ROM moves in front, and it looks as if the American party is ruined for the second time this week. Photofinish comes up, and unbelievably the Americans have in fact won the race. The way this happened was bizarre: ROM were about a foot ahead with a couple of strokes to go, clearly looked like winning, but the rhythm of the US crew left them with a finish and subsequent recovery phase just as they crossed the line, the surge taking them forward more quickly than the drive of their stroke. So in that last glide, they caught the Romanians up and it was the US bowball which went through the line first, by 0.02 seconds.

Men's eight, repechage 2 This one's the other half of the great eights saga, GBR trying to reclaim their pride, with the defending NED eight beside them, plus RUS and ITA. A walloping start for the British, ripping out a very quick 3/4 length in the first few hundred metres. The other three crews match each other in their wake, ITA next, and NED struggling both in the British wash and against a good-looking RUS crew. Midpoint of the race, the Brits have things well under control now, having clearly put right the problems they had on Monday. Now ITA are beginning to drop the other two, and clinging on to the British stern, just beginning at 1250 metres to reel the Brits in. Britain aware of the threat, and as they start their run-in with a few hundred metres to go, nipping up the rate a little, and pushing the Italians away again. RUS third, NED fourth, their strokeman extremely depressed: what a come-down after his gold medal in Atlanta. The Italians are ecstatic to have qualified, but GBR will be even more pleased when they hear that their heat, less pushed, was still five seconds quicker than the Americans and Romanians. That will set up a fascinating contest for the final race of the regatta, the showcase eights event.