A year after finishing off the top of the podium at the World Rowing Championships for the first time since 2005, the U.S. women are back on top.
The American boat coxed by Olympic gold medalist Katelin Guregian found its swing 500 meters into the women’s eight final at Sunday in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, making up a half-second deficit to row past a fast-starting Australian team and take a lead it never relinquished on the 2,000-meter course. The Americans crossed the line in 6 minutes, 0.970 seconds to bring the world title back to the U.S.
Among the women in the boat — Olympic champions Guregian and Emily Regan, Olympians Felice Mueller and Tracy Eisser, Youth Olympian Dana Moffat, and Kristine O’Brien, Victoria Opitz, Gia Doonan and Olivia Coffey — only Regan and Guregian were present in 2017’s bitter finish at home in Florida. There, the Americans finished fourth, a shock for a country that had claimed every world and Olympic title in the event since 2006. This year, nothing was taken for granted.
“We knew it would be a very fast race and that the conditions would be rough,” Eisser said to World Rowing. “Our plan was to stay together and support the girl in front of us. When the first time we started to move, I realized we could control.”
Canada, which began the race in fourth place, earned the silver thanks to a superhuman effort midway through, while Australia settled for bronze.
A year after earning silver for its first medal in four years, the U.S. men’s eight finished just 0.170 seconds off the podium in fourth.
Meghan O’Leary and Ellen Tomek last year ended a 27-year medal drought for the U.S. in women’s double sculls, earning silver. This year they proved it wasn’t a fluke, returning to the podium with a bronze. O’Leary and Tomek started slowly, sitting only fifth after the first quarter of the race before climbing to third, clocking in at 6:47.750 for bronze. Lithuania’s Milda Valciukaite and Ieva Adomaviciute took gold, followed by New Zealand’s Brooke Donoghue and Olivia Loe.
“It’s been a hard week of racing in a really tough field,” O’Leary said. “Today, it was a bit dicey at the beginning, but I’m glad that we pushed through.”
In the PR1 women’s single sculls, Hallie Smith earned bronze, a position she held for the entirety of the race behind defending world champion Birgit Skarstein of Norway and Israel’s Moran Samuel. Smith finished more than five seconds ahead of the fourth-place finisher.
Smith’s bronze marked Team USA’s third para-rowing medal in Plovdiv, adding to the gold won by Danielle Hansen and Jaclyn Smith in the PR3 women’s pair and silver by Hansen, Alexandra Reilly, Mike Varro, Charley Nordin and Jaclyn Smith in the mixed coxed four.
2016 Paralympian Blake Haxton was fourth in the PR1 men’s single sculls.
Also just missing the medals Sunday was 2012 Olympic medalist Kara Kohler, who was less than a second from bronze in women’s single sculls.