Black Blades power to three gold medals

Published: Sun 2 Sep 2007 01:34 PM
Black Blades power to three gold medals at World Rowing Championships
Mahé Drysdale took a third straight world title today in Munich and did it dominant style as New Zealand enjoyed another day of days on the international rowing scene with three gold medals.
Equally as impressive was the amazing Kiwi Coxless Four of Carl Meyer, James Dallinger, Eric Murray and Hamish Bond that rowed its way from last place to first place in the second half of their race, defeated the World Champion British boat and took the spoils in one of the most competitive fields in the regatta.
A third gold medal came a few minutes later courtesy of lightweight Duncan Grant, the class act in the category in 2007 and the dominant winner in Munich with a clinical performance.
There were also hard fought silver medals from the Men's Coxless Pair of Nathan twaddle and George Bridgewater and the Evers Swindell sisters, taking the New Zealand medal haul to five.
Home favourite Marcel Hacker may have sealed his own fate with a suicidal pace in the first 30 strokes of the Men's Single Scull event and he spent the rest of the race going backwards. This surprised the field and left Mahé Drysdale looking elsewhere to see where the race would focus. Hacker made a blistering start as did Alan Campbell and Olaf Tufte, leaving Mahé in fourth as the field settled through the first 250 metres.
In a blink of an eye, Mahé moved swiftly through a fast-fading Hacker and set about Tufte and Campbell, with these two making a break for clear water.  The Brit was next in the Drysdale sights, and then the mighty Tufte, who he despatched equally as quickly. Not content, he moved out to a two second lead at 1500 metres and with a final flourish, put the Kiwi hammer down and pushed all the way to the line, repelling attacks from Ondrej Synek and Tufte to take a historic third straight Men's Single Scull title. "I just let the race take care of itself. I was surprised by the early pace of Tufte but I stick to my strategy and reeled them in one by one. It was a tough race, but it's always better to lead a sculling race and defend that lead rather than row through someone, as I had to at Eton last year against Marcel."
Drysdale's third title in this event - perhaps the toughest of all nuts to crack in the world of rowing - was a unique feat. Even the legendary Peter Michael Kolbe of Germany - who won the title five times - never managed three in a row. The win will place Mahé in the history books as one of the sport's greatest exponents.
Like the Single Scull, the Men's Coxless Four event is one of the most fiercely contested in the sport. It has full entries wherever it goes and is the choice of many rowing nations as their Number One boat. Winning this race is a tall order under any circumstances, but under the guidance of coach Chris Nilsson at the Mighty River Power High Performance Centre, the New Zealand crew has gelled perfectly since it won first time out in Amsterdam.
This outfit has a rare commodity in rowing, an extra gear in the final sprint for home, and this was used to devastating effect by the four as they moved from sixth place at the 1,000 metre mark, to third at 1,500, then to second and finally through the silver medal-winning Dutch and bronze medal-winning Italians to get their noses ahead in the final few metres. The British World Champs were rowed out to fourth place. The Kiwis celebrated in style as they crossed the line, perhaps as surprised as they were delighted to take the spoils.
"It was totally amazing," said two man James Dallinger. "We trained together really well and we all had the same goal. I was Under-23 World Champion last year, but this is another level. We didn't know where we were going to end up, but we knew it would be close and that we had a chance with our sprint."
As New Zealand drew its breath after that, Duncan Grant went out of the blocks like a cut cat, determined to rubber stamp his dominance of the Lightweight Men's Single Scull. He was a second up at 500 metres, two at 1,000 metres, three at 1,500 metres and almost four at the line.
“I wanted to be able to see everyone and control the race,” he said. “I got a fast start and was then able to sit out front and keep my eye on what was going on. I’m very happy and I’m looking forward to going home, it’s been a long tour.”
The Lightweight Single Scull is a non-Olympic category, and New Zealand has yet to qualify in the Lightweight Olympic classes of Double Scull and Coxless Four. Whatever direction the Kiwi lightweight group heads in, however, Grant will be focussed on being a pivotal part of any crew.
Nathan Twaddle and George Bridgewater took the fight to the class Aussie coxless pair of Duncan Free and Drew Ginn - which was arguably the best crew technically at the regatta. They hung on in style until the last 800 metres, when the Aussie's put the pedal to the metal and took a commanding lead. The New Zealand boys were then left, with precious little in the tank, to defend from a fast closing British crew of Matthew Langridge and Colin Smith. They managed it - by less than a second - but it had taken its toll on Bridgewater, who needed medical treatment after the race and missed the podium ceremony.
Caroline and Georgina Evers Swindell bounced back in Munich with a strong silver medal. The Chinese Women's Double Scull of Li and Tian is a class act and has raised the bar in the event much as the twins did years ago. Though certainly not invincible, all competitors will need to think again to beat them in Beijing. The twins sculled their race very well, beating quality rivals from Great Britain and Australia and proving they still have what is required to get the job done. They were all smiles on the dais, and more than satisfied with their performance.
First up in the chilly conditions of the early morning had been New Zealand's latest sculling sensation Emma Twigg. Arriving in Munich the hard way after fighting her way into the elite team with a dominant win at the Under 23 World Championships, she impressed everyone with her passage through to the Semi-Final. Her performance in that race impressed still more as she fought tooth and nail in the hardest possible circumstances against the world's best female single scullers to win her place in Lane 1 for today's A Final.  Getting there was enough for most people to conclude she is star in the making of the sport in years to come. Emma, however, wasn't content to sign-off her season with that as the highlight. In with the leaders in the vital period after the start, she got as high as third before the more seasoned athletes moved ahead.
The race may have been notable for another Ekaterina Karsten title, but for women's sculling, Emma's brave race and highly respectable sixth place marks her as one to watch in Beijing next year. The youngest in the race by seven years, she has more than enough time on her side to make.
New Zealand's other finalists - the Women's Coxless Pair and the Men's Double Scull - finished in fifth and sixth respectively in their finals. With Olympic qualification secured, the main priority was achieved, but both will no doubt have hoped for more.

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