Rowers claim last-chance tickets to the Tokyo Olympic Games

LUCERNE, SWITZERLAND - MAY 16: Molly Reckford of the United States and Michelle Sechser of the United States after the Lightweight Women's Double Sculls Semifinal of the 2021 Final Olympic Qualification Regatta on May 16, 2021 in Lucerne, Switzerland. (Photo by Daniel Kopatsch/Getty Images)
LUCERNE, SWITZERLAND - MAY 16: Molly Reckford of the United States and Michelle Sechser of the United States after the Lightweight Women's Double Sculls Semifinal of the 2021 Final Olympic Qualification Regatta on May 16, 2021 in Lucerne, Switzerland. (Photo by Daniel Kopatsch/Getty Images)

The Olympic qualification regatta offered 29 tickets to this summer’s showpiece in 14 Olympic boat classes, attracting some of the world’s best oarsmen and women.

The remaining qualifying places for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games rowing regatta were decided on Lake Rotsee in Lucerne, Switzerland, amidst a gathering storm.

The Olympic qualification regatta offered 29 tickets to the summer’s showpiece in 14 Olympic boat classes attracting some of the world’s best oarsmen and women.

Originally scheduled to take place over three days, World Rowing decided on a truncated programme which saw the semi-finals and finals take place on Sunday due to the threat of inclement weather.

The gathering storm clouds were a forebearer of the drama that unfolded on the ‘Lake of Gods’ as the crews were fighting it out for two qualifying spots per final. The women’s lightweight double sculls had an additional Olympic ticket on offer.

The Russian Olympic Federation had a particularly fruitful regatta earning four Olympic qualifying quotas in the women’s pair and double sculls, the men’s quadruple sculls and double sculls. Canada and Ireland booked three places each, while China, Romania, Denmark, and the Czech Republic earned two spots apiece.

LUCERNE, SWITZERLAND - MAY 15: Vasilisa Stepanova of Russia and Elena Oriabinskaia of Russia compete during the WoMen's Pair Heat of the 2021 Final Olympic Qualification Regatta on May 15, 2021 in Lucerne, Switzerland. (Photo by Daniel Kopatsch/Getty Images)
LUCERNE, SWITZERLAND - MAY 15: Vasilisa Stepanova of Russia and Elena Oriabinskaia of Russia compete during the WoMen's Pair Heat of the 2021 Final Olympic Qualification Regatta on May 15, 2021 in Lucerne, Switzerland. (Photo by Daniel Kopatsch/Getty Images)
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Riveting Russians

The Russians were in hot form in the opening two finals, with Vasilisa Stepanova and Elena Oriabinskaia winning the women’s pair. The duo came into the final with the best time but still had to work hard to beat the Danish crew to the line. The experienced Denmark crew of Olympic medallists, Fie Udby Erichsen and Hedvig Rasmussen, put up an intense fight fending off a challenge from Chile for the second Olympic ticket on offer.

Russia struck gold again in the women’s double sculls, where they overcame a spirited challenge from the German boat consisting of three-time Olympic medallist Annekatrin Thiele and crewmate Leonie Menzel. Ekaterina Pitirimova and Ekaterina Kurochkina of Russia looked set to concede their lead in the dying moments of the race. Still, they found an extra gear to take the top spot to Tokyo, with Germany finishing second.

The men’s four produced one of the highlights of the regatta where South Africa and Canada came into the A-final as the winners of their respective semi-finals with almost identical times. The race developed into a close tussle in the centre lanes as France looked to spoil Canada and South Africa’s party.

The South African crew, which includes Olympic medallists John Smith and Lawrence Brittain, took the early lead and managed to hold on to it despite a challenge from the Canadians and France. With the victory, the South Africans claimed their ticket to the Games, with Canada outgunning the French for the second qualifying spot.

LUCERNE, SWITZERLAND - MAY 15: Thomas James Murray of New Zealand, Hamish Bond, Shaun Kirkham, Michael Brake, Daniel Hunter Williamson, Phillip Wilson, Tom Holden Mackintosh, Matt David Macdonald and Sam Bosworth compete during the Men's Eight Preliminary Race of the 2021 Final Olympic Qualification Regatta on May 15, 2021 in Lucerne, Switzerland. (Photo by Daniel Kopatsch/Getty Images)
LUCERNE, SWITZERLAND - MAY 15: Thomas James Murray of New Zealand, Hamish Bond, Shaun Kirkham, Michael Brake, Daniel Hunter Williamson, Phillip Wilson, Tom Holden Mackintosh, Matt David Macdonald and Sam Bosworth compete during the Men's Eight Preliminary Race of the 2021 Final Olympic Qualification Regatta on May 15, 2021 in Lucerne, Switzerland. (Photo by Daniel Kopatsch/Getty Images)
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Four eight boats fighting for two spots

With four boats battling it out over two Olympic berths, the men’s eight promised to be an intriguing contest. New Zealand, who included double Olympic gold medallist Hamish Bond among their ranks, took an early lead in the race with Romania keeping them at an arm’s length.

It turned into a two-horse race at the front with the Kiwis trying to shake the persistent Romanian crew. New Zealand managed to hold for the win with Romania on their coattails to finish in second place and book their place at the Games.

The women’s double sculls offered an extra incentive for the crews with a third available ticket to the Tokyo Games. The race started with the United States, Ireland, China and Switzerland going toe-to-toe. The American crew of Molly Reckford and Michelle Sechser managed to get their bow in front and held their lead for the rest of the race.

The battle for the other two qualifying places turned into a bun fight between China, Ireland, and Switzerland. China faded over the final quarter of the race, relinquishing the second position they had held for a large part of the contest.

Switzerland, in contrast, surged towards the line gaining on the Americans to finish second, with Ireland clinching the third ticket leaving China disappointed in fourth place.