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Six New Zealand boats made strong progress in today's racing at the Rowing World Championships in Bled, Slovenia, with the women's pair of Rebecca Scown and Juliette Haigh also securing Olympic qualification.
Mahé Drysdale, lightweights Lucy Strack and Louise Ayling, the men's four and Storm Uru and Peter Taylor also progressed, with James Lassche and Graham Oberlin Brown securing an A final start in the lightweight men’s pair. There was disappointment for the men's eight, however, who missed out on the A final and must now win the B final to guarantee London qualification.
One race under the sport's spotlight today was the encounter in the quarter final of the men's lightweight double sculls between Olympic and current world champions Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter and New Zealand's 2009 world champions Storm Uru and Peter Taylor. The two crews raced away from the rest of the field after the first 500 metres, slugging it out stroke for stroke until the Kiwis went ahead in the final quarter. With three heading to the semi finals, the GB crew were safe and backed off - leaving first blood and a very fast time of 6 minutes and 18 seconds to the Kiwis. The Polish double completed the qualifiers, but were ten seconds behind New Zealand.
Another Kiwi crew facing world champions was the men's coxless four of James Dallinger, Ben Hammond, Chris Harris and Jade Uru, drafted in from the eight after Carl Meyer was forced to withdraw with an injury.
With the French world champions in the field and only two to make the semis from the repechage - the Kiwi four needed a good row and produced one, holding second place from the start behind the Netherlands and fighting off the French for the vital second qualifying spot. They achieved this with one and half seconds to spare at the line, just two tenths behind the winners.
New Zealand's world champion women's pair of Rebecca Scown and Juliette Haigh secured their place in the A final, and the expected qualification for London 2012, with a very good row to win the quarter final in a fast time with only limited pressure. The other crews to watch in the event - Lucerne winners Great Britain and resurgent Beijing silver medallists China were in the earlier race and enjoyed a much closer tussle.
The Kiwi girls' split times stacked up well and the finishing times for heat one winners Great Britain and the New Zealand crew were virtually identical. An epic final is in prospect.
It was business as usual for four time world champion Mahé Drysdale in his quarter final, as he took control of the race early on and cruised home to a comfortable win.
Lucy Strack and Louise Ayling utterly dominated their repechage to win by six seconds from Germany. They now move to the semi finals in this closely contested Olympic class.
James Lassche and Graham Oberlin Brown found their undoubted speed in the semi final to move from sixth at the first 500 metre marker to second with 500 metres to go. With three to qualify, this middle 1km was the fastest of any crew in the race and was enough to secure them third at the line, behind the Italians and Germans. The Kiwi crew - current silver medal holders in this non-Olympic class - will be aiming to find that pace again in the A final.
The men's eight will have to win the B final to qualify for London 2012 after finishing sixth and last in the semi final. In the tougher of the two semi races, they were slightly down at 500 metres and fell further away as the race progressed. Germany, the Netherlands and Poland were the top three.