World champions Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan retained their double sculling title in dramatic style with a last stroke victory over Germany at the Rowing World Championships in Bled, Slovenia today and the good results kept coming elsewhere in the team - with four more Olympic qualifiers confirmed.
Always in the leading pack, the New Zealanders attacked the second half with the Germans and moved away from the French, the home favourites Luca Spik and Iztok Cop, 2000 Olympic champions from Slovenia, the Australian Olympic champions Scott Brennan and David Crawshay and the British silver medal winners from Karapiro.
Sculling races don't get any better than this one and it was the Germans Hans Grühne and Stephan Krueger who took on the Kiwi home sprint by launching their own attack early as the crews entered the final 500 metres. Cohen and Sullivan responded but this was a harder comeback than against the British last time out at Karapiro. As the crews closed on the line, and the Kiwis had the momentum but seemed too far behind. As they crossed the line, the New Zealand bow ball edged ahead in one of the sport's closest ever finishes.
Eight one hundredths of a second was the gap between the men's quadruple scull of Steven Cottle, John Storey, Matthew Trott and stroke Robbie Manson and the A final, in a great race that ultimately boiled down to a battle for first between eventual winners Germany and Australia and a battle for third which came down to a stroke-for-stroke dog fight between the Kiwis and the Italians.
It was too close to call on the line but the photo finish gave it to the Italians. With eleven to qualify for the Olympics, that means five places in the B final so the Kiwi quad must simply not finish last. On current form they'll be looking for a lot better than that.
The men's pair of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond enjoyed a comfortable win in their semi final, easing out with plenty in hand at the start and easing through into the lead when they decided to. They moved away with ease in the second half, and then cruised home - still four seconds quicker than the arch rivals Great Britain had clocked in the previous race. Olympic qualification was also confirmed.
Danny McBride overcame a difficult week to qualify for London after a fourth place in the B final in the adaptive single sculls. Danny carried an injury throughout so qualification was mission accomplished for last year's bronze medallist.
Anna Reymer and Fi Paterson also booked their London tickets with a fine scull to second place in the women's doubles. The British duo Kath Grainger and Annie Vernon, who won the race, look a class above the rest of the field and are clear favourites, but the Kiwi boat could be a contender for medals.
Mahe Drysdale took the lead at halfway in the single scull semi final and never looked back, getting a grandstand view of Olaf Tufte's huge second half push back from the brink of the B final. Drysdale won it to go to the A final and the Olympics, Tufte was second and Lassi Karonen third. Rejuvenated Marcel Hacker, world champion Ondrej Synek - looking far from his best - and first semi winner Alan Campbell complete a mouth-watering line up for the final.