After a day off due to gusty winds, Olympic rowers got back in their boats Monday with the outstanding U.S. women’s eight making a strong debut in Rio.
On calm water with barely a breeze on Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, the Americans qualified for Saturday’s final in 6 minutes, 6.34 seconds, a whopping eight seconds ahead of the Netherlands.
“It was good to get a race under our belts,” said Meghan Musnicki, one of two rowers remaining from the U.S. eight that won gold in London 2012. “This is the first time we’ve raced in this lineup.”
Britain won the second heat in 6:09.52 and is lining up as the strongest candidate to smash the dynasty of the Americans, who’ve won 10 consecutive world and Olympic titles in the event.
“It’s definitely achievable and we all believe that we can do it, and that’s what you really need in a race like this,” said Karen Bennett, who rows in seat No. 7 in the British boat. “What better place to beat them than the Olympics to really make a statement.”
The Brits held off New Zealand and Canada, coxed by 56-year-old Lesley Thompson-Willie, who is participating in her eighth Olympics.
Britain also secured a spot in the final of the men’s eight, winning its heat in 5:34.23 while defending Olympic champion Germany won the other heat, four seconds slower.
Helen Glover and Heather Stanning nearly saw their four-year winning streak end in the women’s pair as Hedvig Rasmussen and Anne Andersen of Denmark led the race until the final stretch. The British pair won by just two-tenths of a second and advanced to the semifinals, along with the Danes.
A Serbian pair that capsized in choppy waters Saturday stayed in their boats this time as they qualified for the semis in a repechage.
Vladislav Yakovlev of Kazakhstan was less fortunate as he flipped in the single sculls after just 200 meters. Yakovlev climbed back into his boat and finished the race almost five minutes behind the Algerian winner.
The first medal races in the Olympic regatta are set for Wednesday.