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Rio or Bust: Olympic Qualification On the Line

by Allison Müller, allison@usrowing.org | May 21, 2016
Olympic qualification is on the line this week for four U.S. crews. The men’s single, double, quad and eight are ready to begin racing on Sunday at the 2016 Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland and will look to fill the remaining spots on the Olympic schedule for the United States.
LUCERNE, Switzerland – Olympic qualification is on the line this week for four U.S. crews. The men’s single, double, quad and eight are ready to begin racing on Sunday at the 2016 Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland and will look to fill the remaining spots on the Olympic schedule for the United States.

26562101641_24811917d0_kUp first for the U.S. is two-time Olympian Ken Jurkowski (New Fairfield, Conn.), who races in the second of three heats (10:28 a.m. local time) against Denmark’s Sverri Nielsen, Australia’s Rhys Grant, Russia’s Andrey Potapkin, Israel’s Dani Fridman and Bendeguz Petervari-Molnar of Hungary. The top two scullers from each heat advance to the semifinals, with the remaining scullers going on to the repechages.

Jurkowski, who represented the U.S. at last summer’s world championships, needs a top-three finish to earn a spot on the Olympic program. The men’s single field is the largest of the regatta with 18 total entries.

_-4Up next on the program for the U.S., Craftsbury Sculling Center’s Willy Cowles (Farmington, Conn.) and Stephen Whelpley (Mequon, Wis.) race in the second of two heats against China, Serbia, Poland and Argentina (12:20 p.m. local time). The winner advances to the final, with the remaining crews going on the repechages. Poland’s Dawid Grabowski and Dominik Czaja won silver at World Cup I. In the field of 11, the top two crews overall earn qualification to the Olympic Games.

_The U.S. men’s quadruple sculls races next in the first of two heats (1:09 p.m. local time). Craftsbury’s Ben Davison (Inverness, Fla.), Ben Dann (Pound Ridge, N.Y.), John Graves (Cincinnati, Ohio) and 2012 Olympian Peter Graves (Cincinnati, Ohio) take on Italy, New Zealand and China with the winner advancing to the final. Among the seven crews entered in the event are four that raced in the final at World Cup I including first-place Russia, second-place Canada, fifth-place Italy and sixth-place Norway.

The U.S. men’s eight will compete in a preliminary race (1:30 p.m. local time) with Spain, Australia, Italy and Poland.

_-5The crew of coxswain Sam Ojserkis (Linwood, N.J.), Glenn Ochal (Philadelphia, Pa.), Rob Munn (Redmond, Wash.), Mike DiSanto (Boston, Mass.), Steve Kasprzyk (Cinnaminson, N.J.), Austin Hack (Old Lyme, Conn.), Alex Karwoski (Hollis, N.H.), Hans Struzyna (Kirkland, Wash.) and Sam Dommer (Folsom, Calif.) is looking for a top-two finish in Tuesday’s final in order to secure Olympic qualification.

This is not the first time the U.S. has gone through the Lucerne qualification regatta in this boat class. In 2012, the U.S. eight was successful and finished just inches out of the medals at the Olympic Games in London. Of the men’s eight crew that will race in Lucerne, three are returning to the eight from last summer, including Hack, Karwoski and Dommer. The new lineup has a deeper veteran presence; Ochal won bronze in the four in London and Kasprzyk was in the eight.

Poland won silver at the 2016 World Rowing Cup I and finished fifth at the European Championships. The U.S. lost to Poland in its heat at worlds, but finished ahead of them in the B final. Poland is returning the same crew to the qualifier.

Australia finished ninth at the 2015 World Rowing Championships and has four returning from that crew. Spain finished 11th at worlds and seventh at this month’s European Championships. They have five new athletes in the crew. Italy finished sixth at the 2015 World Rowing Championships and took silver at the 2016 World Rowing Cup I. They return six from last year.

The U.S. qualified 10 crews at the 2015 World Rowing Championships. For more information about the 2016 Olympic Games selection process, click here.

Follow racing via live race tracker and audio commentary at www.worldrowing.com. Be a part of the conversation with #RowToRio and #FQR.

See Photos from Friday and Saturday here.

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