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Americans Kraft, Schwen Reach Semifinals

July 21, 1996

GAINESVILLE, Ga. (AP) _ Missy Schwen and Karen Kraft took 15 minutes Sunday morning for some quiet time and to reflect on how to row a strong race. Then the Americans went out and did it.

Schwen and Kraft, silver medalists at last year’s world championships, won their Olympic preliminary heat by more than a boat length with a time of 7 minutes, 34.29 seconds to reach Thursday’s semifinals in the women’s pair.

``The semifinal was what we wanted,″ said Kraft, of Newport, Wash. ``We wanted to race hard and come off the water knowing where we can make improvements and have three days to recover.″

The rowing competition started Sunday at Lake Lanier with 23 preliminary races. All winners advanced to the semifinals; others will race in the repechage, or a second chance to reach the semifinals.

Schwen, of San Francisco, and Kraft wanted to win and cut out the extra race to allow their muscles to recover.

``We’re fortunate. We’ve never had to experience the repechage. For us it is unusual,″ Kraft said. ``This is our second year, ... but we’ve had good races.″

They started slowly and trailed Canada’s Emma Robinson and Anna van der Kamp through the first 1,000 meters. But Kraft and Schwen picked up their stroke and took the lead for good over the next 500 meters and won by 4.69 seconds.

For Kraft and Schwen, winning is easier when they see themselves stroking their boat through the 2,000-meter course, reminding each other when to be aggressive in stroking or ease back and relax. They even take themselves up to the top of the medal stand.

``I think we’re still perfecting it,″ Kraft said. ``It gives us some relaxation. It gives us a concentration.″

Of the Americans, only Michelle Knox Zaloom of Washington, D.C., and Jennifer Devine of Philadelphia joined Schwen and Kraft in reaching the semifinals. Zaloom and Devine, who qualified for the Olympics in June, finished third in their double sculls heat where the top three advanced.

Steven Redgrave of Britain easily advanced to Thursday’s semifinal in the men’s pair with partner Matthew Pinsent. Redgrave hopes to become only the fourth Olympian to win four gold medals at four consecutive games. The others are U.S. discus thrower Al Oerter, Danish yachtsman Paul Elvstrom and Hungarian fencer Aladar Gerevich.

Canada’s Silken Laumann will race in the repechage in women’s single sculls. She finished 8.51 seconds behind Denmark’s Trine Haansen. Defending world champion Maria Brandin of Sweden advanced with Belarus’ Yekaterina Khodotovich.

Defending men’s champion Itzok Cop of Slovakia will race in Tuesday’s repechage after coming in second in his heat behind Xeno Mueller of Switzerland. Canada’s Derek Porter, Vaclav Chalupa of the Czech Republic advanced to the semifinal along with two-time Olympic champion Thomas Lange.

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