Para Women’s Single Sculls (ASW1x) – Semifinals

In Semifinal One Rachel Morris of Great Britain and Birgit Skarstein of Norway were in a class of their own at the head of the field. Morris has moved up through the ranks recently. She finished fifth at last year’s World Rowing Championships and then took fourth earlier this season at World Rowing Cup II. Skarstein is the reigning World Champion and in her third year of para-rowing. Morris continued to show her improving form by leading Skarstein and crossing the line in first. Skarstein followed in second with Italy’s Eleonora De Paolis qualifying from third.

There was no denying the form of Moran Samuel of Israel who raced in Semifinal Two. She raced in the final at the 2012 Paralympic Games and then moved up to a standard that saw her take gold earlier this season at the World Rowing Cup II in Varese. Samuel led from the outset followed by Claudia Santos of Brazil with Liudmila Vauchok of Belarus. Santos finished third in Varese while Vauchok finished sixth at this regatta. Despite Samuel being under no pressure in the second half of the race, she recorded the fastest qualifying time overall. Her time of5:20 was just seven seconds outside of the World Best Time.

These six scullers in the final are now all 2016 Paralympic qualifiers.

Qualifiers: GBR, NOR, ITA, ISR, BRA, BLR

“It feels incredible to be qualified for Rio, it has been a goal since the London Olympics. I am really excited that it will be my first Paralympics.” Birgit Skarstein (NOR)

“It was one of the hardest races of my life, it was a really big target to qualify. It will be my first Paralympics.” Eleonora De Paolis (ITA)

“Everything went well today, Rio means everything for me. To represent my country at home will be incredible.” Claudia Santos (BRA)

“Rio means everything, in London I lost a medal by one second, so in Rio I wanted to get better and to fight for the medals. My family is here, it is a dream come true.” Moran Samuel (ISR)

Para Men’s Single Sculls (ASM1x) – Semifinals

Semifinal One was a rather stacked semifinal with the World Champion, Erik Horrie of Australia in the race. Giving Horrie a run for his money at the start was Rene Pereira of Brazil. Then Horrie managed to push away with Igor Bondar of Ukraine moving up through the race. Bondar last raced internationally in 2013 where he finished second. The 2008 Paralympic Champion Tom Aggar of Great Britain was back in fourth and would have to work hard to get into a qualifying spot. As Aggar found his rhythm, Pereira was losing steam. At the line Aggar had managed to get through to the final along with a very happy Bondar and, of course, Horrie. Horrie’s time of 4:41 was the fastest overall qualifying time and was just six seconds outside of the World Best Time.

Taking off at a fast pace was Alexey Chuvashev of Russia. Chuvashev has been a regular medallist but is yet to capture that elusive gold. Today he was looking in fine form in Semifinal Two. But margins were close and Steven Haxton of the United States, Alexander van Holk of the Netherlands and Korea’s Jun-Ha Park were all within striking distance. Then Park got his nose in front of Chuvashev. Then Russian fought back. This was going to be a full race to the line as all six boats came into the final 200m tucked tightly together. Chuvashev held it together the best, so did Haxton and van Holk.

These six finallists have now all qualified for the 2016 Paralympic Games.

Qualifiers: AUS, UKR, GBR, RUS, USA, NED

“Rio is the dream of a lifetime, it will be my first Paralympic Games, I’ve made a big change in my lifestyle. After 13 years without competitive sport, it feels great to get to my competitive peak. I’ve been rowing for 1,5 years.” Alexander Van Holk (NED)

“It was a good race. It’s the toughest field since 2007 my first world championships. It will be my third Paralympics. Here the minimum goal was to qualify so it is good to tick this box.” Tom Aggar (GBR)

“It’s excellent to qualify the boat for Australia. This qualification is stage one of this Championships. I feel fine for the final tomorrow. The opposition is stepping up, it is good for our sport.” Erik Horrie (AUS)

“I have not thought about Rio until now. I am happy to give the USA the chance to compete there next year.” Steven Haxton (USA)

Para Mixed Coxed Four (LTAMix4+) – Semifinals

The World and Paralympic Champions, Great Britain featured in Semifinal One. This crew also owns the World Best Time and they have not lost a race since 2012. Today they were the fastest starters and led the field over the 1000m course. But the rest of the field did not make it easy for the British as they followed closely behind – especially Italy, who was having a battle for second with Ukraine and France. In the final sprint Brazil and joined in the battle to the line. One crew was going to be unlucky. As the British crew of Clough, Brown, Relph, Fox and coxswain James crossed the line a flurry of blades behind them say Italy take second and Ukraine hold off Brazil and France to take third.

First to show in Semifinal Two was the United States. They got to the 500m mark ahead of the rest of the fleet that saw where the real battle was going on. It was dead level between South Africa and Germany as the United States continued to lead with Canada in second. In the final sprint South Africa showed their true colour and gave it their all to get to the line just before Germany. Germany was unlucky to miss out in the final by just over a second.

The United States finished in a time almost identical to Great Britain’s in semifinal one. This is going to be a tight race for tomorrow’s final.

Qualifiers: GBR, ITA, UKR, USA, CAN, RSA

“It’s exciting to have done this for our country next year. WE are focused on the final and we will think about Rio tomorrow night.” Danielle Hansen (USA)

“It’s massive, it’s four years of work and pain. It will be my first Olympics, we still have work to do to win the final tomorrow.” James C. Fox (GBR)

“It was a very difficult race, but we did it. Rio is everything, a dream come true.” Iryna Yarynka (UKR)

“It’s a good thing for Italy, it will be difficult to have a seat to go to Rio. For me it would be the fourth Olympics. I won gold in rowing in Beijing, I was in Vancouver competing in cross country and in London for sailing.” Paola Protopapa (ITA)