Felice Mueller and Grace Luczak have earned a spot at their first Olympic Games by winning the women’s pair in convincing fashion Sunday morning at the 2016 World Rowing Cup II in Lucerne, Switzerland.
Needing a top-four finish to earn their ticket to Rio, the pair in USA 1 shot out of the start and left the field in their wake, building a lead of more than three seconds at the halfway mark, passing 1,000 meters in a time of 3:30.880. That was well ahead of the second-place boat from Denmark, which reached the halfway point at 3:33.920.
As the Danes faded over the second half of the course, the team of Genevieve Behrent and Rebecca Scown of New Zealand attempted to mount a challenge, but was unable to overcome the deficit and reel in Mueller/Luczak. The Americans crossed the finish line in 7:06.360, a comfortable 1.48 seconds ahead of the Kiwis. USA 2, with Meghan Musnicki and Eleanor Logan aboard, finished third in 7:11.310.
“I am thrilled to see two U.S. boats on the podium,” said Luczak, according to USRowing. “I love rowing with Felice. I just feel like we get in a rhythm. When it came to the final, we both knew what we wanted to do. It was really fun today to go out there and do that."
The team now has three more weeks before they must decide if they accept their Olympic selection in the women's pair. The women's national selection team camp continues through June 20, when the crews for the women's quadruple sculls and women's eight are selected, at which time Mueller and Luczak can choose to compete in the pair in Rio or in one of the bigger boats, if chosen.
The duo has a history of being fast together, having won gold in the pair at the 2011 U23 world championships with a world-record time.
Mueller, who took fourth in the pair at World Cup II last year, also has won a bronze medal at the 2014 world championships in quadruple sculls and was part of the women’s four that won at the 2013 worlds. She won pair bronze at the 2015 world championships along with Eleanor Logan.
Luczak, who celebrated her 27th birthday last week, was part of the gold-medal-winning women’s four a non-Olympic boat, at the 2015 worlds and has won back-to-back world championship gold medals in the eight (2013, 2014). She also was part of the eight that posted the fastest time in history, recording a time of 5:54.160 at the 2013 World Cup III. In 2011 she set a world record in the pair at the 2011 U23 worlds, where she also was part of the champion eight.
Mueller and Luczak won at National Selection Regatta 1 in March, earning their shot at spots on the Olympic team in the pair.
“It was a great race for both our boats,” said Logan. “Felice and Grace qualified and that was pretty much a priority of the regatta, getting top-four so they have the choice to be the Olympic pair if they want to.”