STORY AND PHOTOS BY ED MORAN
TOKYO, Japan – Rowing in a high stake’s regatta in hot and humid conditions is hard enough without failing to advance from the opening heat and having to get to the semifinal through the repechage.
It can make reaching the final and the medals even more difficult.
Michelle Sechser and Molly Reckford were staring at that situation after finishing third in the Saturday heat, then winning their repechage on Sunday. So, when a second weather hold was announced for Tuesday, it may have been an unwanted disruption for some, but not for the U.S. women’s lightweight double.
It was more of a break.
“Absolutely,” said Reckford on Monday. “Any opportunity we have to get in the boat, especially after reviewing our performance, is one we value and will build on. We are still a fairly new crew, so each day is a gift to us. We went out this morning and really enjoyed being able to work on ironing out some of the wrinkles from our heat and rep,” she said.
“Feeling grateful for the extra days.”
Rowing back-to-back days and advancing through the reps is not something completely new to Sechser and Reckford. While they were racing the second U.S. Olympic team trials earlier this spring in the open women’s double event, they were doing it for experience.
They went through the rep then and finished second in the regatta. And dealing with the stress of a mistake during a race is also not foreign to them. In the final of their Olympic trials, Reckford lost her oar in the first stroke.
They recovered and rowed through the pack to win.
Something similar happened near the end of the opening heat on the Sea Forrest Waterway course Saturday, in the last 15 strokes of the piece. But they did not have the time needed to recover and missed advancing to the semifinal by just over one second.
They got to the second chance start line on Sunday, and were all business, and advanced to the semifinal by more than five seconds over second-place Belarus. Before the weather cancelation, they would have had to race the semifinal on Tuesday.
Now they have had an extra day to recover and make any necessary changes.
“It’s not ideal to be in the rep,” Sechser said Sunday. “Molly had that small digger in the last 15 strokes. Not how we were hoping to execute, but while we were confident that we were going to be able to show up and get the job done, in the race this morning, there’s still a lot on the line.
“One more mistake, or not just getting the right rhythm or clipping the buoys they have here on the course could end the dream for us a lot sooner than expected. So, yeah, (we were) pretty serious and focused but also feeling pretty confident that getting a second run down the track is actually a good thing for Molly and I.
“As a new crew, we haven’t put together an international campaign together yet, so I think staying really positive about what we can learn from each trip down the course is a really positive thing.”
Sechser said that the change in the schedule would not rattle them.
“Molly and I have yet to race a regatta together that did not have some sort of inclement weather policy or updated schedule due to weather,” she said.
“Even Trials II, they crammed that together. At the qualification regatta in Lucerne, they shoved that all together into a 25-hour span,” she said.
“Honestly, it feels pretty normal to be getting messages that there is some inclement weather moving in and we sort of need to be ready for anything any day.”
The Dutch rowing team has agreed to isolate from other competitors after one of its athletes, a coach, and a staff member all tested positive for COVID-19, the team’s performance director told Reuters on Monday.
“In order to get trust and confidence with (other) countries and (especially) the volunteers. So we are happy to cooperate,” Hessel Evertse said, adding that there were no additional positive tests reported on Monday morning.
TeamNL rowing coach Josy Verdonkschot tested positive for the coronavirus and went into a 10-day quarantine, the Netherlands Olympic Committee (NOCNSF) said on Sunday, after 21-year-old single sculls competitor Finn Florijn also turned up a positive test on Friday.
Racing is scheduled to continue on Wednesday. A full schedule can be found here.
* Rowing News Olympic coverage brought to you by Gemini.