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U.S. Women’s, Men’s Elite Boats Just That

August 15, 2004

SCHINIAS, Greece (AP) _ America’s elite rowing crews were exactly that Sunday, winning key heat races and setting world records in the process.

What could be the strongest American women’s eight boat ever stayed undefeated this year, winning a tight race with medal contenders Romania and Germany. The U.S. men added a come-from-behind heat victory against favored Canada.

The women were expected to win, but had to hold onto a diminishing lead. They led by nearly 3 seconds after 1,000 meters, but the Romanians charged hard over the second half, pulling to .3 of a second in a finish that energized the crowd, followed by Germany in third.

Racing with a tail wind, the Americans’ winning time was 5:56.55, eclipsing the previous mark of 5:57.02 set by Romania in 1999.

The victory means the U.S. women’s elite boat, which won both World Cup events it entered this year, advanced directly to next Sunday’s final.

The events ended before noon and organizers said second-chance races wouldn’t be held Monday in light of expected stormy weather.

The boat is also a relatively young women’s eight, with only two women having graduated college before 1997, the year that the NCAA sanctioned women’s rowing as a varsity sport.

The American women have been strong the past three years, winning the world championships in 2002, but suffering an uncharacteristic mistake in last year’s worlds when they caught an oar and brought the boat to a stop. Germany finished first in that race, Romania second.

The U.S. men’s eight was about .8 of a second behind Canada at the halfway point, then pulled ahead at the end to win by .6 of a second. They finished in 5:19.85, easily beating the previous mark of 5:22.80, set by the Netherlands in 1999.

The men’s eight is considered a contender to finish in the medals and coach Mike Teti is looking to redeem himself after coming up empty in Sydney with a squad that had won three consecutive world titles. Like the women, the men’s team advanced directly to the final. Australia won the other men’s eight heat and the Netherlands won the other woman’s eight preliminary.

Earlier, America’s Harvard-MIT tandem in the men’s lightweight double sculls was upset by Ireland in their preliminary heat.

Greg Ruckman and Steve Tucker fell behind by about 3 seconds in the first 1,000 meters, and the Irish tandem of Sam Lynch and Gearoid Towey maintained their lead the rest of the way.

Ruckman and Tucker finished second, meaning their medal hopes hinge on a repechage _ or second-chance race _ on Tuesday. A strong showing there would put them into the semifinals.

The U.S. men’s lightweight four, which includes Teti’s younger brother, Paul, was not considered a strong medal contender in their event, but finished well enough to move directly to Thursday’s semifinals. They were third, about 4.4 seconds behind leader Australia and second-place Ireland.

The American women’s lightweight double scull will have to enter a second-chance race after finishing 11.4 seconds behind first-place Germany in their heat.

The tandem of Alaskan Stacy Borgman and Oregon’s Lisa Schlenker finished fourth in their heat, which had one of the closest finishes of the day. Poland crossed the line less than a second behind the Germans.

Only the top-finishing boats advanced directly to the semifinals in lightweight double sculls. The Australian tandem of Sally Newmarch and Amber Halliday advanced in world-record time. Racing with a tail wind, they finished in 6:49.90, breaking a mark that had stood for nine years.

In quadruple sculls, the U.S. women finished second in a heat that Germany won by about 2 seconds, while the men were fourth, 7 seconds behind the pacesetting Germans, whose boats won heats in three events Sunday.

The host country had its first highlight in the rowing events as the lightweight double sculls boat of Greeks Vasileios Polymeros and Nikolas Skiathitis won their heat over favored Italy by more than 4 seconds.

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