Germany set the pace in the blue-ribbon men’s eight yesterday and New Zealand’s men’s pair had a world best time as the Olympic rowing regatta at the London Games got off to a fast start in glorious sunshine.
The German team, unbeaten in three years, beat a top-quality field containing Olympic champions Canada and host nation Britain in the second heat in the men’s eight, confirming their status as favorites for the high-profile event.
The US also progressed into Wednesday’s final by winning the first heat at Dorney Lake by a half-length from Australia. With only one crew advancing from each heat, a host of leading boats must expend valuable energy by contesting a repechage on Monday.
“They are basically the class of the field,” US men’s coach Mike Teti said of Germany. “I’ve seen them in practice, I have seen them on film. Now I saw them live in person. They are very, very good.”
A packed crowd, treated to sunshine in relatively still conditions, later collectively gasped in astonishment as Hamish Bond and Eric Murray broke a world best time in the pairs category that had stood for 10 years.
The Kiwis surged to victory in the first heat in 6 minutes, 8.50 seconds at Dorney Lake — easily surpassing the previous best time of 6:14.27 minutes posted by Matthew Pinsent and James Cracknell of Britain in Seville in 2002.
Rowing does not refer to such marks as world records because the conditions are different at each venue.
However, that was not the only mark set on the man-made course 15 miles west of London on a day of relatively still conditions, a slight tailwind.
Helen Glover and Heather Stanning of Britain broke a 16-year Olympic best held by Australia by more than four seconds when they won the first heat of the women’s pair in 6:57.29, a length clear of a US boat that also qualified.
Monday, Aug. 11
Peng Shuai of China beat Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei 6-3, 6-7(3/7), 7-5.
Men’s single sculls:
Wang Ming-hui placed 4th in Heat 6, leaving him in 23rd place of 33.
Chen Szu-yu faced Krisztina Toth of Hungary and Huang Yi-hua faced Miao Miao of Australia in the women’s singles second round.
Cheng Wen-hsing and Chien Yu-chin defeated Chang Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying of Malaysia 21-12, 6-21, 21-15, and were to face Sari Shinta Mulia and Yao Lei of Singapore later last night.
Fang Chieh-min and Lee Sheng-mu faced Ingo Kindervater and Johannes Schoettler in Group Play Group A late last night.
“This was the biggest crowd ever, but we were very much in our own boat, we stuck to our race plan and did not get distracted,” said Stanning, who has not lost a single race with Glover this season.
They are competing in the regatta’s first final on Wednesday and are looking to become the first British women to win Olympic gold, after so many years of success in the men’s squad led by rowing greats Steve Redgrave and Pinsent.
World champion Germany and Ukraine qualified directly for the final of the women’s quadruple scull by winning their heats.
New Zealand reached the semi-finals of the men’s double sculls as the quickest boat, but Olympic champion Australia slumped into the repechage by finishing fourth in its heat.
Britain, which is tipped to top the rowing medals table come the end of the eight-day regatta, was fastest in three heats of the lightweight men’s four, although there are still semifinals to be rowed in that event.
The German men’s eight has won the last three world championships, but were unhappy after the draw on Thursday because they were placed in a heavyweight heat with the defending champions, a host nation that is a dark horse for gold and a powerful Dutch crew.
They need not have worried.
Powering into an early lead, Germany established clear water within 500m. Britain, starting with a fully fit crew for the first time this season, closed the gap slightly by the end, but the Germans coasted home in 5:25.52.
Canada was a massive 12 seconds back.
The US traditionally dominates this event — which has a billing similar to that of the 100m in track — but failed to qualify directly for the Olympics for the first time ever. They needed a victory in a final qualifying regatta in May to squeeze into the Games.