Rowers' Olympic prospects dwindle


The Olympic prospects of the two New Zealand rowing crews yet to qualify look slim after neither boat made the final at a world cup regatta in Belgrade overnight on Saturday.

The men's lightweight four and the men's eight both face an uphill battle to qualify for the London Games, with the "regatta of death" later this month in Lucerne their last chance.

The eight must win that regatta if New Zealand are to have a boat in that class for the first time since 1984, and the four must finish in the top two.

If they are to achieve those results, both crews will need a significant improvement from their efforts this weekend in Serbia.

Both were yesterday consigned to the repechage after failing to make the top two in their heats, and neither managed to progress to the A final.

The lightweight four, making its international debut, led their repechage until the final sprint before finishing third and earning a spot in the B final.

Needing a first or second place to qualify for the main final, Curtis Rapley, James Lassche, Graham Oberlin Brown and Duncan Grant took the lead early and were still ahead at 500 metres.

They held onto the lead at the 1km mark and were still ahead by less than a second as the race entered its closing stages.

But the more seasoned and experienced crews alongside them managed to pull through on the final sprint to the line, leaving the New Zealand crew a boat length short of making the main final.

The eight were eliminated following a last-place finish in the repechage.

After crossing the first checkpoint in third place, the crew remained close to the pace but lost time to the field at every 500m marker.

Their performance does not bode well for their chances of securing qualification, especially considering France, due to be one of the crew's main rivals at the "regatta of death", made it through to the final. The other New Zealand crew in action, the men's heavyweight four, also narrowly failed to progress to the A final but have already secured Olympic qualification.

The crew of Tyson Williams, Jade Uru, Chris Harris and Sean O'Neill held third place until the final 500 metres, before being overhauled in the sprint for the line for the final qualifying spot.

Last night's rowing was due to feature the fours in action in the B finals, which decides seventh through 12th positions. Windsurfing out Kiteboarding will replace windsurfing at the Olympic sailing competition for the 2016 games in Rio.

The ISAF Council's vote will be a blow to New Zealand medal hopes. They have a rich history in the event, including Barbara Kendall winning three medals and Tom Ashley claiming gold at the 2008 games. An evaluation group was appointed to examine kiteboarding formats.

The evaluation group recommended that kiteboarding be included in the ISAF event family including the ISAF Sailing World Cup and the ISAF Sailing World Championships but also selected kiteboarding for the Olympics. The events to be contested at the 2016 Olympics have been confirmed as: Men's kiteboarding; women's kiteboarding; men's one-person Dinghy - laser; women's one-person dinghy - laser radial; men's one-person dinghy (heavy) - Finn; men's two-person dinghy - 470; women's two-person dinghy - 470; men's skiff - 49er; women's skiff - 49er FX; mixed two-person multihull - Nacra 17.APNZ

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