The men's four in Aiguebelette. Photo: Katie Steenman Images.
Day 7 – September 5, 2015.
Saturday means one thing in France: Market Day.
As the merchants were setting up stalls in Chambery’s old town this morning, the one item not for sale amongst the fresh produce and buttery croissants was metal, precious metals to be exact.
On day seven of the Championships, Canadian crews were in the market for gold, silver and bronze as the Olympic boat class finals got underway. But the only place these commodities could be found was on the podium in Aiguebelette, and even then, it was only going to be available to a select few.
But with one year to go until the Rio Games, the competition is becoming increasingly competitive. Countries are fine-tuning their best crews in anticipation of next year's extravaganza in Brazil, thus making a podium finish this year all the more difficult.
The two medal hopefuls for Canada this afternoon were the lightweight women’s double and the men’s four.
Victoria natives Lindsay Jennerich and Patricia Obee have executed some fine racing this week. Winning their semi-final two days ago made the duo a favorite for a medal today.
Getting off to a slow start, the women sat in sixth place until the ¾ marker. The Canadians had too much work to do in the final quarter of the race however, and not enough real estate to do it in. While still clocking the fastest last 500 meters of the field, the duo crossed the line in fourth, just missing the podium.
“Of course it’s disappointing,” said Jennerich, who won this event in 2010. “But it’s a tight field and anything can happen on any given day.”
The Vancouver Islanders had a great week of racing. At their last regatta in mid-July, the women placed 14th at a World Cup in Switzerland. Had they repeated that performance this week, they would not have qualified the boat for Rio.
This week, back on form and hunting for gold, they have qualified for the Olympic Games despite the disappointing result.
“We are a quality crew and I know we can win in Rio,” continued Jennerich. “We must have a strategic plan and put together a solid year of training. Then we will be able to perform to our full potential.”
New Zealand, Great Britain and South Africa won the gold, silver and bronze medals respectively.
The other crew that missed out on some hardware today was the men’s four.
In third place for the majority of the race, the foursome faded in the last quarter, finishing just 1.12 seconds out of the bronze medal position.
“It’s frustrating,” said Langerfeld, 3-seat in the crew. “This wasn’t our best race. It felt like we were fighting each other a bit out there. We weren’t responding as a unit to Will’s calls.”
The Canadians secured passage to the Rio Olympics however and ended the week with a fourth place world ranking.
“We have to remember that the goal is Rio and that remains our focus,” continued Langerfeld. “The crew is moving in the right direction and we are looking forward to finding those extra seconds in the next twelve months.”
While Italy, Australia and Great Britain crossed the line in the top three positions today, the Canadian men improved their world ranking in Aiguebelette by one placing, having finished fifth at the world championships last year in Amsterdam.
The women’s pair of Jennifer Martins and Cristy Nurse, which is doing double duty here this week, also raced for a medal today. The duo ended up in sixth position. Great Britain, New Zealand and the United States won the gold, silver and bronze medals respectively.
“We had a solid race, though it was not our best,” said Nurse. “But we are happy to have qualified the boat for Rio, that was the goal. Now we have to focus on the the eight, that is the priority.”
Switching gears quickly, Martins and Nurse will train with their crewmates this afternoon in the larger boat, ensuring the eight has its best performance tomorrow.
Along with the Americans, the Canadians are one of the favorites in this boat class, setting the stage for another North American invasion on French soil tomorrow.
There were two B finals being contested by Canadians today. The men’s quadruple sculls and the men’s pair crews were not in the hunt for a medal, but rather a coveted Olympic qualification spot.
The crew of Matthew Buie, Julien Bahain, Will Dean and Rob Gibson got off to a blazing start in the men’s quadruple sculls event.
In a deep field, and with only two Olympic qualification spots available in the B final, the foursome blasted out of the blocks, staying close to the Ukraine, who led the field at the start. However the Canadians were unable to hold onto the blistering pace of the lead boat, and slipped back of the field in the final 500 meters.
“We knew we had a fast start and we tried to capitalize on that,” said Gibson, a London silver medalist who sets the rhythm in the crew. “But the pressure came on in the second half and we were not able to respond. There is no room for mistakes in this event, the field is just to tight.”
The Canadians crossed the line in 5th place, finishing with a world ranking of 11th position. Only the top eight in this event qualified for the Olympics next year.
“We had high expectations coming to France,” continued Gibson, visibly disappointed. “To be honest, I am sort of stunned right now. I know we have what it takes to win a medal in Rio. We will have to book our tickets to the Games at the qualifier next year.”
Poland and the Ukraine grabbed the last two Olympic qualifying spots in this event.
The British Columbian duo of Michael Evans and Martin Barakso raced the B final as well in the men’s pair, finishing sixth. The young Vancouver Islanders missed out on qualifying the boat, needing a top five finish to book passage to Rio.
Sitting in sixth position for the entire 2000 meter distance, the pair crossed the line 3.7 seconds behind 5th place, finishing the regatta with a 12th place world ranking.
The only C final today for Canada was in the men’s single.
Pascal Lussier, who turns 24 years old next weekend, started off the week with forty other competitors by his side.
Working his way into the top half of the field one round at a time, the Napierville, Quebec native crossed the line today in fourth place, culminating the week with a 16th place world ranking.
“I felt tired today,” said Lussier, who is always positive in his outlook. “It was not my best race, but I finished sixteenth out of forty one. That’s not bad!”
Mexico, Germany and Finland finished 13th, 14th and 15th respectively. The medal round for this event will be contested Sunday.
And that concludes the seventh day of racing on Lac d'Aiguebelette.
The medal rounds continue tomorrow in the Olympic class events. Crews in the hunt for hardware, and who have already qualified for the Rio Games, include both the women’s single and the eight. The lightweight men's four will be attempting to secure a qualification spot for Brazil.
Final results in France thus far:
LTAMix4+ : Bronze
LW2x : 4th
M4- : 4th
W2- : 6th
LW1x : 9th
M4x : 11th
M2- : 12th
M1x : 16th
W2x : 22nd
Racing tomorrow: LM4-,W8+,W1x
Click here to see a complete list of results.
Click here to see how many crews can qualify in each event, in Aiguebelette, for the Rio Olympics.
The finals conclude tomorrow, Sunday, September 6, at 12 PM local time.
For a list of Canadian crews and athletes competing in France, click here.
Click here for the schedule of racing.
Click here for individual athlete biographies.
Online streaming with audio commentary of the results throughout the week and live video streaming of the Olympic class events from September 3rd to the 6th will be available at www.worldrowing.com.
The semi-finals and finals are scheduled to air on Rogers SportsNet One from September 3 - 6.
Douglas Vandor - Rowing Canada Aviron - 250.686.2282