OLYMPICS – Synek, Drysdale renew rowing rivalry
In an early clash of rowing titans, New Zealand’s Mahe Drysdale overhauled his friend and arch-rival Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic in the final stretch of the Olympic men’s single sculls quarterfinal Tuesday.
The two have one of rowing’s great rivalries and their meeting at this stage of the competition was a treat for the fans at the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon venue.
“Whenever you meet Ondrej it’s a battle and it’s hard when you meet each other so early,” Drysdale told reporters.
“You can see Ondrej didn’t go the full distance, but we’ll see what everyone’s got when we hit the later stages.”
The 37-year-old Drysdale, nicknamed Grandpa, is the reigning Olympic champion but Synek has claimed all of the world championship titles since the 2012 Olympics in London.
Synek took an early lead today’s race and was still ahead at the halfway point but in the third Drysdale made a massive push and passed the Czech at about the 1,500 metres mark before winning by a length.
The result could be seen as a psychological victory for Drysdale with bigger races to come but the Kiwi played it down.
“I don’t really place too much on it to be fair as it’s early rounds. You can’t read too much into it,” said Drysdale, who has held the world’s best time of 6 minutes 33.35 seconds since 2009.
Synek, who took silver at the 2012 games, was also sanguine about the outcome.
“I expected the result of this race before. Mahe isn’t a person who wants to lose a race.”
Among those joining them in the semi-finals are Cuban Angel Fournier Rodriguez, who has stated his intention of becoming the world’s best, and Belgian Hannes Obreno, a surprise winner over Drysdale at Henley.
The lagoon’s waters were quite bubbly today but the high winds that had forced the postponement of Sunday’s events had dropped, allowing the schedule to get back on track.
One of those worst affected by the weekend weather was Australian Kimberley Brennan, gold medal favourite in the women’s single sculls. She nearly sank on Saturday and came in 14th in the heat rankings, only just making the automatic qualifying.
But she was back on form today, clinching a place in the semi-final with a comfortable first place.
“I feel lucky to have that heat race because if that had been the final and for that to be how my Olympics ended I’d have been disappointed,” she said.
Veteran Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus, 44, also progressed from that race to the next round in her seventh Olympic Games.
Britain’s Katherine Grainger, along with partner Victoria Thornley, reached the final of the women’s double sculls in her fifth Olympics. She won silver medals in 2000, 2004 and 2008, and gold in front of her home crowd in 2012.
But there was disappointment for Britain when Katherine Copeland, also a gold medal winner in London four years ago, went out in the repechage of the lightweight double sculls with Charlotte Taylor and will not retain her title.