Saturday, July 28, 2012

RR Olympics Blog: Rowing Kicks off at Eton Dorney



Trip to the course: 
The first day of the 2012 Olympic Regatta was one for the ages -- quite a show that these athletes put on and a fantastic way to kick off the racing at the Games. Getting to the course was quite an adventure this morning -- hop on the train at 6:52am, change trains, arrive at Windsor and Eton Riverside, queue for a double-decker bus in front of Windsor Castle, arrive at the temporary bus terminal (field), walk roughly one mile, queue to enter the venue, walk another mile, arrive at the entrance to the race course, and, finally, walk however many meters up the course it is to your seat/office arrangement. Certainly pays to bring comfortable shoes. (Photo gallery included above from the trip to the course.)

Olympic racing begins:
The weather was ideal today and the times reflected that -- four new Olympic best times, one of which was also a new world's best time (the incredible Kiwi pair's 6:08 performance). While this boat is undoubtedly the favorite, I've some trouble believing that they are truly 15 seconds faster than Dave Calder and Scott Frandsen of Canada -- conditions and times can be very tricky here, and when it's a direct tail, look out! The same can be said for the U.S. men's victory in the eight this morning -- a solid performance against a very high quality opponent in Australia (also, just in case you've forgotten, Poland made the final last year in Bled, and won the Munich World Cup, and Ukraine was the crew that edged the U.S. men's eight out of qualification in Slovenia last year -- both of these crews were out the back in the heat). While Germany posted a time five seconds faster than that of the U.S. to win their heat, the difference between heat times was all over the map all day (another example: Tim Maeyens setting a new Olympic standard some seven seconds faster than Mahé Drysdale and 11 seconds faster than Ondrej Synek -- Maeyens is unquestionably very good, but quite a difference a heat makes). Germany are, of course, the favorites, but certainly a step in the right direction for the U.S. crew. Canada, on the other hand, had a bit of a strange race in what was the harder heat on paper -- having started out very strong (second place through 500m), the crew faded by the 1000m mark, and took it down significantly in the final 250m. Gamesmanship?

Two other notable performances -- the U.S. women's pair had an outstanding showing against the crew that could be considered the favorites entering the Games in Helen Glover and Heather Stanning of Great Britain. The 'Sara(h) Pair' held onto the Brits all the way down the course, eventually finishing roughly bow to stern on the 2012 World Rowing Cup champions. Also, the U.S. women's quad had a strong race, battling to stay in touch with Germany–a favorite for the podium, though I've got my doubts about anyone taking down Ukraine in this event. 

For a full rundown of the days events, check out the my article '2012 Olympics, Day One: Fast Times at Eton Dorney,' now posted to RowingNews.com. And for officially sanctioned, publicly posted photos from the regatta venue, check out the World Rowing Facebook Olympics Gallery.

More to come tomorrow as the next round of heats kicks off in the women's eight, and lightweight men's and women's doubles.

-Bryan

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