More than just medals and glory were at stake at this past week’s World Rowing Championships in Linz-Ottensheim, Austria: quota spots for nations at the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 in every boat were also up for grabs.
With that on the line, Team USA’s representatives rowed to the challenge, obtaining 12 of a possible 18 Olympic and Paralympic quota spots and assuring that USRowing will be well represented next summer in the Japanese capital.
The U.S. rowers who fill those quotas and compete in each boat will be determined next year.
The world championships is one of two Olympic qualifying events open to Team USA athletes as the world’s eyes turn toward Tokyo. The Final Olympic Qualification Regatta is May 17-19 in Lucerne, Switzerland. The U.S. has now earned all four Paralympic quotas and will not participate in the Final Paralympic Qualification Regatta May 8-10 in Gavirate, Italy.
American Women Qualify 6 Of 7 Boats
Seven events are to be contested in men’s and women’s Olympic rowing in Tokyo — single, double and quadruple sculls, lightweight double sculls, as well as pair, four and eight — and as the world championships drew to a close Sunday, the U.S. women assured that they will be represented in all but lightweight double sculls.
Team USA’s women rowers did their jobs in Linz, obtaining a quota place in six of the seven Olympic events: women’s single sculls, women’s double sculls, women’s quadruple sculls, women’s pair, women’s four and women’s eight.
By virtue of their bronze-medal performance Sunday, the women’s eight, which needed to place in the top five in order to gain the quota spot, earned the right to return to the Olympic Games and continue an Olympic gold-medal streak that extends back to 2008. The boat in Austria included women's eight Olympic medalists Katelin Guregian (coxswain), Meghan Musnicki and Emily Regan, as well as returning eight world champions Olivia Coffey, Gia Doonan, Dana Moffat, Felice Mueller and Kristine O'Brien, plus 2018 women's four world champ Erin Reelick.
Kara Kohler, who in earning Team USA its spot in single sculls captured her first individual world medal – the bronze, has moved into that event this year after winning Olympic bronze in 2012 as part of the women’s quadruple sculls crew.
Megan Kalmoe and Tracy Eisser’s fourth-place finish in the pair and Cicely Madden and Gevvie Stone, who finished fifth in double sculls, each earned quota places for the U.S. in their respective events; Stone earned Olympic silver in single sculls in 2016. Madeleine Wanamaker, Caryn Davies, Victoria Opitz and Molly Bruggeman finished sixth in women’s four, which had only previously been a part of the Games in 1992 and will return for 2020.
Emily Huelskamp, Kathryn Roach, Lauren Schmetterling and Sophia Vitas won the quadruple sculls B final to finish 7th overall and book a quota.
Only in lightweight double sculls did the U.S. fail to qualify, finishing 10th with seven claiming quotas, but it will get one more chance to qualify, with two countries earning spots in Lucerne next May.
U.S. Men Have Work Ahead With 2 Boats Secured
The U.S. men leave Linz having earned quota places in the men’s four and eight, by virtue of fifth-place finishes in both events. Thomas Peszek, Thomas Dethlefs, Andrew Reed and Clark Dean secured the place in men’s four, while Alexander Karwoski, Patrick Eble, Conor Harrity, Nicholas Mead, Alexander Richards, Michael Di Santo, Benjamin Davison, Austin Hack and coxswain Julian Venonsky did so in men’s eight.
The American men were not represented in Rio four years ago in three of the four sculls events, nor did a U.S. pair make the cut. The men will have another chance to earn Olympic places in the sculling events as well as in men’s pair at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne.
Para-rowers Go 4-For-4
It’s certain that American Para-rowers will have the chance to defend their Paralympic silver medal from 2016 in PR3 mixed coxed four, and the stars and stripes will also be represented in PR1 men’s and women’s single sculls and PR2 mixed double sculls.
With her sixth place in PR1 women’s single sculls, Hallie Smith assured an American presence in the event next summer, as did Laura Goodkind and Russell Gernaat with their top-eight finish in PR2 mixed doubles.
The silver-medal performance of Alexandra Reilly, Charley Nordin, John Tanguay, Danielle Hansen and Karen Petrik paves the way for the PR3 mixed coxed four to challenge for a medal in Tokyo after claiming silver at the past five world championships, and for Hansen, a 2016 Paralympic silver medalist, to add another medal to her collection should she be selected to that boat.
By winning the B final, Paralympian Blake Haxton finished seventh overall to snag the final quota spot in PR1 men’s single sculls. Haxton caught and passed China’s Yie Jang with 500 meters to go to win by 18 seconds.