Olympics: Success for NZ rowers

By Andrew Alderson

Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan led the way for the New Zealand rowers at Dorney Lake with a courageous race plan that eventually yielded second place and a spot in the Olympic final.

Traditionally slow starters, the Kiwi double were fifth after the first 500m and fourth after 1500m but powered home in the final 500m to produce the top three finish required to progress.

Unfavoured Argentina won the race and celebrated like they'd taken gold. Defending Olympic champions Australia were ousted, as were the fancied Germans.

Seven of New Zealand's 11 crews are in semifinals, three are in finals with only the ill-fated women's quad not advancing further in the regatta.

Mahe Drysdale and Emma Twigg eased into tomorrow's (NZT) Olympics single sculls semifinals in overcast crosswind conditions.

Drysdale assumed his inscrutable race face behind the sunglasses to record a comfortable victory, barely puffing at the end.

"You try to do as little as you possibly can," he said. "I'm feeling good physically. Certainly a lot better than I did four years ago."

Drysdale's key rival, Czech Ondrej Synek, won his heat with double defending Olympic champion Olaf Tufte scraping through to the semifinals in third.

The top three in the single sculls quarter-finals went through.

Twigg was forced into second behind Australian Kim Crow. Crow finished second to Twigg's fifth at the Lucerne World Cup and looks to have lost none of her form. She is also a strong medal contender in the women's double.

Women's lightweight double scullers Louise Ayling and Julia Edward also progressed to the semifinals at their debut Games.

They also needed a top three finish and eased through. After being third out of the start they work their way up to second behind the Netherlands at the 500m mark and held on until the finish, losing by a length.

Ayling and Edward finished a surprise third in their heat after picking up gold and silver medals at World Cup regattas in Lucerne and Munich respectively. The pre-Olympic results proved ambitious.

After the heat Edward said they went a bit early trying to hold off Denmark and Great Britain in the last 600-700m. This time they were able to sit on a low stroke rate, knowing they get a chance on Thursday night (NZT) to qualify for an Olympic final.

Edward said it was like being on a training row at Lake Karapiro: "It was relaxed. We didn't bust a gut or need a sprint."

The men's four of Tyson Williams, Jade Uru, Sean O'Neill and Chris Harris also needed to finish in the top three to make the semifinals.

They finished second, a length behind Serbia, and beat crews from Italy and the Czech Republic. The race was close and they will have expended valuable energy for another mandatory top three finish on Thursday.

They were fourth after the first 500m but steadily jockeyed into second by the 1500m and had the reserves to hold on.

The result is some respite for a disruptive season which saw the crew finish sixth in the first World Cup in Lucerne. An injury to Williams meant they struggled to fourth in the B final at Munich when Ben Hammond replaced him at late notice.

- NZ Herald

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