The streak was bound to be broken — inevitably — and on Sunday in the 2017 World Rowing Championships the U.S. women’s eight run of 11 straight world titles, which included three Olympic gold medals, came to an end with a fourth-place finish.
“The more important streak for me is the last three Olympics and the women keeping the steak alive in 2020,” said USA Rowing high performance coach Matt Imes, alluding to the 2020 Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo.
According to Imes, the women’s eight finish on Sunday at Nathan Benderson Park sets the stage for another long string of international victories. The women’s eight squad placed fifth in the 2005 world championships before their run of 11 consecutive titles.
“This is going to be a real motivated group,” he said. “We really know that the best years are ahead for these women.”
The team of Meghan Wheeler, Emily Regan, Kelly Pierce, Lauren Schmetterling, Sophia Vitas, Corinne Schoeller, Grace Latz, Sarah Dougherty and coxswain Katelin Guregian finished the 200-meter race in 6:09.25; three spots behind champion Romania. Nonetheless, Imes noted that the U.S. group has its sights set on a loftier goal.
In fact, the U.S. program has plans for greater goals. Especially for Sunday’s two runner-up teams — the women’s double sculls and men’s eight — that earned silver medals. That gave the U.S. four silvers and a bronze in the two days of finals.
“We really look at it as a four-year process,” Imes said. “We have an expectation of four medals in Tokyo in 2020.”
The men’s eight crossed the finish line in 5:28.45, just behind the winning team from Germany and narrowly ahead of Italy (.45 of a second to be exact). That U.S. squad included Dariush Aghai, Yohann Rigogne, Alexander Karwoski, Jordan Vanderstoep, Thomas Peszek, Nicholas Mead, Andrew Reed, Patrick Eble and coxswain Julian Venonsky.
As for the other silver medalist U.S. team, Meghan O’Leary and Ellen Tomek finished behind New Zealand in 6:46.57.
Other finalists for the U.S. included adaptive athletes Hallie Smith and Blake Haxton, who each finished sixth in PR1 women’s single sculls and PR1 men’s single sculls, respectively. Also placing sixth for the U.S. were Thomas Foster, Nicholas Dawe, David Smith and Andrew Neils in the lightweight men’s four.
Afterward, U.S. coach Mike Teti concurred with many in attendance by lauding the collective efforts of the local and international rowing communities, as well as city and county officials.
“Sarasota put on a great show,” he said. “I think the competition was excellent and the racing was fun. Hopefully, they’ll put it on again soon.”