Three hours after an impressive semifinal showing, the smiles still shone brightly on the faces of New Zealand lightweight double Lucy Strack and Julia Edward.

Competing in their first major international regatta, the young duo are one of the more surprising names in the line-up of nine New Zealand crews already qualified for finals.

After finishing third in their heat, Strack and Edward battled their way through Tuesday's repechage round to advance to the semifinals.

Needing a top three finish yesterday to book their place in the A final, Strack, 20, and Edward, 19, looked set to fall short when, with 500m to go, they were well back in fourth place, a length and a half off the third-placed Americans.

But the gutsy youngsters dug deep over the final quarter of the race, blazing their way past a faltering US crew.

They could not quite pull off second place, finishing one second behind Greece.

But third place was as good as first as far as Strack and Edward were concerned. The pair could barely contain their jubilation, embracing each other after they crossed the line before pumping their fists in the air.

"We were just stoked," said Strack. "I think that's the most celebration anyone's seen for third place; we were very happy."

The result caps off a brilliant year for the bubbly brunettes who have continued to exceed expectations. The new combination were surprise silver medallists in the world under-23 championships in Belarus earlier this year.

Whatever happens in tomorrow's final the pair are guaranteed to finish in the top six in the world - a very creditable result.

But Edward said they have their sights set on the podium.

"That's definitely the goal; we've got to now sit down with our coach and re-evaluate everything and discuss our tactics and race plan."

Edward said the step up from under-23 to senior level has been a huge eye-opener, but with the pair eyeing a selection for the London Olympics, they are exactly where they want to be.

"The competition is so much more extreme and aggressive."