There has already been a great deal of close racing on the way to the finals, which will determine who earns the right to attempt to qualify their boat for the upcoming Olympic Games via the World Cup circuit. The closest race of the day, as you might expect, came on the lightweight side, while the heavyweight semis were a little more spread out en route to tomorrow's match-ups. Let's take a look at the crews to watch for tomorrow.
Julie Nichols and Kristin Hedstrom became the first U.S. crew to win a World Cup last season, and narrowly missed a medal at the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled last September. While they seem to have taken it pretty easy in the Time Trial that preceded the head-to-head racing, Nichols and Hedstrom appear poised and ready for tomorrow's final. However, they'll have a new challenge on their hands, with the combination of Hillary Saeger (bronze medal in the LW4x in Bled) and lightweight 2k world record holder Ursula Grobler, who won the other semi in the fastest time and who have looked good all week. Lindsay Hochman and Katherine Robinson (both of whom raced to a bronze medal with Saeger last year) form another combination to watch, and Beijing Olympian Jen Goldsack and partner Jenneatte Daley should not be counted out. Then there is the U.S. LW2x from the Pan American Games, Chelsea Smith and Michelle Sechser, who both doubled up to win bronze in the LW2x and W4x in Guadalajara. Suffice it to say, it's a deep field, with a great deal of experience. Our likely winner will be Nichols and Hedstrom, but look for the combination of Grobler and Saeger to pose a real threat and potentially take the contest.
The favorites entering the fray will be Andrew Campbell and Beijing Olympian Will Daly, who spent much of the winter training with the Kiwi national team, and who have looked like the most polished combination in the field thus far. The closest race of the day in the semis was for the final qualifying spot in the final, with the combination of Beijing Olympian Tom Paradiso and Robert Duff just edging Brian de Regt and John Graves by 0.066 seconds, coming from behind in the last 250m to overtake Craftsbury on the line. Recent RR interviewee Nick Trojan and new double partner (as of roughly three weeks ago) Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg also made the final, and will be joined by Jon Winter and Austin Meyer, rounding out the four boat final. Again, our likely winner will be Campbell and Daly (especially given the apparent ease with which they qualified for the final), but the rest of the field will be very agressive, and likely tightly packed.
Our pick this year is another Beijing Olympian, Lindsay Meyer, who, along with last year's USA W1x Gevvie Stone, qualified with relative ease, and posted the fastest time in the event today. Isolda Penney won the first heat, but qualified in 8:10 compared to Meyer's 7:57, and, according to Glenn Ochal, Meyer's cadence was 28 through the back half of the race (as was Stone's), showing that there is much more speed to be had. Seattle Rowing Center's Helen Tompkins has represented the U.S. at the U23 level three times, but may find the pace difficult tomorrow.
The favorites for this event will be two more Beijing athletes, Warren Anderson and Sam Stitt, who placed second and third, respectively, at the first NSR roughly a month ago. So far, they have posted the fastest times, though in today's semi the duo of Pete and Tom Graves were just two seconds back, finishing in approximately 6:28 to Anderson and Stitt's 6:26. The Grave brothers represented the U.S. in Bled in the M2x, and it will be interesting to see the kind challenge they can bring tomorrow. The other semi went to Willie Cowles and Stephen Whelpley in 6:31, with second place going to Ryan Shelton and Martin Etem in 6:33. According to Ochal, Cowles and Whelpley were in control from the 1000m, and have likely played their cards close to the vest for tomorrow's final.
Our pick for this event will be the combination of Megan Kalmoe and Ellen Tomek, who took fifth in the W2x in Beijing, have a great deal of experience racing with one another, and have posted the fastest time in the heats by some seven seconds. Look for Stesha Carle and Kate Bertko to take second, with Carle having brought home silver from Bled with Kalmoe, and Bertko having raced in the W2x in Bled. Margot Shumway (who won gold in the W1x at Pan Ams last year) and Sarah Trowbridge (who was in the U.S. W2x in Bled with Bertko) will likely be in the mix, while BC grad Katherine Stainken and Duke alum Mae Joyce Gay may not yet have the experience necessary to place themselves in contention for the top spot.
You can watch the finals tomorrow live, beginning at 9am PDT here:
For updates from the course, check in with the USRowing Twitter account, as well as U.S. Olympic hopeful Glenn Ochal (@glennochal).