'Long time coming': Kiwi rowers make strong start in Tokyo

Author
Michael Burgess, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 23 Jul 2021, 5:23PM
Brooke Donoghue (L) and Hannah Osborne made an impressive start to their Olympic campaign. Photo / Getty
Brooke Donoghue (L) and Hannah Osborne made an impressive start to their Olympic campaign. Photo / Getty

'Long time coming': Kiwi rowers make strong start in Tokyo

Author
Michael Burgess, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 23 Jul 2021, 5:23PM

Women's double scullers Brooke Donoghue and Hannah Osborne have laid down an early marker in Tokyo, with a commanding win in their heat.

While it is early days, it was an important performance from the Kiwis, who established their credentials as one of the teams to beat in Japan.

On a productive day for the New Zealand team, Donoghue and Osborne were probably the pick of the bunch on Friday.

They powered away from the rest of the field in the second quarter of the race, with clear water for the rest of the contest, before conserving some energy in the final stages.

They crossed the line in 6:53.62, 2.03 seconds ahead of the United States, with the French combination another two seconds back.

The highly regarded Chinese team was well off the pace – more than 10 seconds behind the Kiwis – to miss automatic qualification for the semi-finals, with the top three boats progressing.

Osborne's selection raised some eyebrows, as she displaced Olivia Loe, who had claimed successive world championships in the stroke seat alongside Donoghue.

But Osborne displayed her power, helping the New Zealanders to row through the French and the Chinese after the 500 metre mark.

They had trailed the French by 1.21 seconds at the first gate, and were a whisker behind the Asian crew, but turned that deficit into a 1.39 second advantage by the halfway point.

Osborne was pleased with her first hit out and said she felt no nerves despite the relative unfamiliarity with the event.

"It has been a little bit of a whirlwind, but to end up in the double with Brooke has been amazing," she said. "It just felt like we were racing at home when we were in the start."

Donoghue said: "It was a good hit out and nice to come out on top without having much racing in the last few years."

It's always difficult for female double scullers from this country – who compete in the shadow of the legendary Evers-Swindell twins – but Donoghue and Osborne have made a promising start to their own tilt at Olympic history.

Men's double scull progress from brutal heat

Chris Harris (L) and Jack Lopas are through to the quarterfinals in the men's Olympic double sculls. Photo / Getty

Double scullers Chris Harris and Jack Lopas have shown their potential, coming through a tough heat to automatically qualify for the next round.

The Kiwi combination had to hold off a strong late charge by Ireland, before finding an extra gear to seal third place.

It was a brutal race, with little between the four crews.

New Zealand made a solid start, holding a narrow lead over Poland and Switzerland after the first quarter of the race.

At the halfway point they were tucked in second, 1.16 seconds behind the Poles, who are recent European champions.

Harris and Lopas were maintaining a good pace, though slipped into third, behind the Swiss, at the third gate.

The final 500 metres was a killer for all four teams. Ireland upped their stroke rate noticeably, edging close to the New Zealanders, but Harris and Lopas responded well to re-establish their advantage, finishing in 6:12.40, 3.18 seconds ahead of the Irish.

Twigg makes winning start

Emma Twigg in action. Photo / Getty

Emma Twigg has made the best possible start to her Tokyo Olympics campaign, with an assured performance in her heat on Friday.

The 34-year-old led for most of the race, and crossed the line comfortably ahead of rivals from Holland and Serbia.

It was an important boost for Twigg, who is seeded No 1 for this event but hasn't raced internationally since late 2019 due to Covid.

She's desperate to gain a medal in Tokyo, after the heartbreak of fourth place finishes in both London (2012) and Rio (2016).

Drawn in lane six, Twigg had a narrow (1.32 seconds) lead after 500 metres, before extending to just over two seconds at the halfway point, with her economical but effective style.

She put the hammer down in the third quarter to increase her advantage to nearly four seconds, before easing to the finish line, crossing in 7.35.22.

Sophie Souwer of the Netherlands and Serb Jovanna Arsic were the other automatic qualifiers, trailing the Kiwi by 4.74 and 11.52 seconds respectively.

Parry into quarters

Jordan Parry in action during the rowing heats. Photo / Getty

Jordan Parry has progressed to the quarter finals of the men's single sculls, after a second place in his heat on Friday morning.

Following in the considerable footsteps of Mahé Drysdale, it was Parry's first international outing in the single seat, after a background in the quad.

It wasn't completely straightforward for the 25-year-old, who was in fourth place after the first quarter of the race at the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo.

But the Tauranga product steadily eased up through the gears, moving into third after 1000 metres.

With the first three boats taking a direct route to the quarter finals, there was no need to use up unnecessary petrol, though Parry accelerated in the final 300 metres to overtake his Peruvian rival Alvaro Torres Masias and claim second.

Parry finished 4.96 seconds behind Greek Stefanos Ntouskos, who dominated the race before easing up in the final stretch.

Parry clocked 7.04.45, with Alvaro Torres Masias crossing in 7.07.92.

A relieved Parry said he was happy with how his first race went.

"It's been a long time coming," Parry told Sky Sport. "We were just ready for something maybe quite rusty to start with, being my first international racing, but I was pretty happy with just getting this one under the belt. It's a bit of a relief.

"I had prepared visuals so much over the campaign - this is what it's gonna be like - but then you're there and it was maybe not what I expected. Just being out there on my own, like, 'it's just me', where I'm used to rallying with my quad boys."

New Zealand has an illustrious history in the single sculls, with three golds (2000, 2012 and 2016) and Drysdale's Beijing bronze.

Women's quads fail to fire

The New Zealand women's quad sculls crew will have to do things the hard way, after missing out on automatic qualification for the A final.

The combination of Olivia Loe, Eva MacFarlane, Ruby Tew, Georgia Nugent-O'Leary came in fourth in their heat on Friday, trailing Germany, Netherlands and Great Britain to the line.

The Germans and the Dutch progress directly to the A final, while New Zealand and the other crews face a cut throat repechage.

The Kiwis are a new crew and it was always going to be a tough battle. They were two seconds off the pace at the first gate, closing the margin narrowly (1.66) at the halfway point.

The crew in white tried to make a move in the third quarter of the race – and briefly made ground on the British – but couldn't maintain the pace, dropping away in the final stages.

New Zealand crossed the line in 6:25:23, seven seconds behind the Germans and four seconds adrift of the British.

They'll now need to finish in the top two of a six boat repechage or be relegated to the B final.

The scale of the task for all quad crews was underlined by an imperious performance by world champions China in the second heat, as they powered away from the rest of the field to cross the line in a sizzling 6:14:32.

The New Zealand women's quad sculls crew will have to do things the hard way, after missing out on automatic qualification for the A final.

The combination of Olivia Loe, Eva MacFarlane, Ruby Tew, Georgia Nugent-O'Leary came in fourth in their heat on Friday, trailing Germany, Netherlands and Great Britain to the line.

The Germans and the Dutch progress directly to the A final, while New Zealand and the other crews face a cut throat repechage.

The Kiwis are a new crew and it was always going to be a tough battle. They were two seconds off the pace at the first gate, closing the margin narrowly (1.66) at the halfway point.

The crew in white tried to make a move in the third quarter of the race – and briefly made ground on the British – but couldn't maintain the pace, dropping away in the final stages.

New Zealand crossed the line in 6:25:23, seven seconds behind the Germans and four seconds adrift of the British.

They'll now need to finish in the top two of a six boat repechage or be relegated to the B final.

The scale of the task for all quad crews was underlined by an imperious performance by world champions China in the second heat, as they powered away from the rest of the field to cross the line in a sizzling 6:14:32.

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