New Zealand single scullers chase gold in France
New Zealand's three single scullers will all chase gold at the World Cup regatta in France tonight.
Emma Twigg and Mahe Drysdale were expected to be among the leading contenders in the women's and men's events, but lightweight women's sculler Julia Edward has emerged as somewhat of a surprise challenger.
Edward was originally scheduled to contest the lightweight women's double sculls with regular crewmate Lucy Strack, but Rowing New Zealand left an out-of-form Strack in New Zealand to work on her technique with a view to possibly teaming up with Edward again at the final World Cup regatta of the year in Lucerne next month.
Rotorua's Edward was instead entered in the lightweight single sculls field and has emerged as a genuine gold medal prospect after winning her semifinal overnight (NZ time) in Aiguebelette.
After winning her heat on Friday night, Edward grabbed the lead in her semi by the halfway stage and eventually won in a time of seven minutes 40.52 seconds, ahead of Germany and France. China, Great Britain and Denmark will make up the A final field tonight.
Twigg remained on course to defend her World Cup gold from the opening regatta of the season in Sydney in March. She finished well ahead of second-placed Generva Stone from the United States in her semifinal in 7min 27.30sec, only slightly slower than Olympic champion Mirka Knapkova (Czech Republic) recorded in winning the other semi.
Drysdale backed up his heat win with an encouraging semifinal victory over Ondrej Synek, the defending world champion and the man Drysdale pushed into second place at the 2012 London Olympics.
Drysdale went past his arch-rival at the halfway point and led for the rest of the 2000m race to win in 6:46.76 ahead of Synek, who is likely to be his chief opposition in the final along with Germany's Marcel Hacker.
Hamish Bond and Eric Murray won yet another men's pairs race as they easily saw off closest challengers Germany in their semifinal. The unbeaten NZ crew recorded a time of 6:23.48, almost six seconds ahead of Germany with Mexico grabbing a finals place ahead of Serbia, while Argentina, Great Britain and France qualified from the other semifinal.
There were disappointments from the women's double sculls and pairs crews, with both missing out on A finals.
Zoe Stevenson and Fiona Bourke won silver in the double at last year's world champs but could only manage fourth in their semifinal to be forced into tonight's B final. Rebecca Scown and Louise Trappitt were pipped by China for third in their pairs semi by 0.01 seconds and will also have to contest the B final.
However, the women's quad of Erin-Monique O'Brien, Lucy Spoors, Georgia Perry and Sarah Gray qualified for their A final by finishing third in their heat and then winning their repechage to make the top six.
Men's double scullers Karl and Robbie Manson will also row in the A final in their first senior international competition as a crew after finishing third in their semi in 6:12.95, behind Australia and Norway.
The NZ lightweight men's four had to go through a repechage to make their A final after last year's silver medalists at the world champs were beaten in their heats by defending world champions Denmark.
The crew of Curtis Rapley, Peter Taylor, James Lassche and James Hunter then won their repechage in the smart time of 5:57.87 ahead of the US.
The NZ men's quad were fourth in their heat, third in their repechage and will row in the B final, while the new men's lightweight double sculls combination of Alistair Bond and Adam Ling won the C final overnight.