Rio de Janeiro — They’ll row, row again. And try to stay upright.
For two Michigan natives, a windy day on the water Saturday upended their plans to take a shorter route to a medal in the Olympic rowing regatta.
Both Ellen Tomek of Flushing and Grace Latz of Jackson struggled with the conditions and now will have to qualify for semifinals in their events through a repechage race. For Tomek and her partner Meghan O’Leary in the women’s double sculls, that’ll be Sunday. For Latz, part of the U.S. quadruple sculls boat, it’ll be Monday.
The wind and waves at the picturesque Lagoa Stadium wreaked havoc on the first day of competition. A Serbian men’s pair boat actually capsized in the choppy waters. American Gevvie Stone in the women’s single nearly did, too. And several rowers voiced their opinions Saturday, angered that race officials didn’t postpone the day’s racing.
But Matt Smith, executive director of the rowing’s world governing body, said that decision was made partly because conditions are expected to be worse in the coming days.
For Tomek, they certainly were bad enough Saturday.
“We just wanted to go out there and have the best race that we could and throw down a really good time,” Tomek said. “Unfortunately, that’s just not going to happen when you catch several over-the-head crabs (oar blade catching in the water) and your boat goes into the other lane and stops.”
After a fourth-place finish in their heat Saturday, they’ll row against Germany, Denmark and the Czech Republic Sunday for a berth in Tuesday’s semifinals. Latz and her crew will need a top-four finish in a five-team repechage Monday to reach Wednesday’s final in their event.
Also scheduled to race Sunday is the women’s pair team with Ann Arbor’s Grace Luczak and former University of Michigan rower Felice Mueller.