Four-time Olympian Emma Twigg’s latest battle for the podium got off to a roaring start on Saturday, as compelling matchups in the men’s and women’s single sculls began to take shape on the first day of Olympic rowing at the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo.
The 34-year-old New Zealander posted the fastest overall time of the women’s opening heats in her first race since 2019, cruising through to a 7:35.22 finish at the fan-free venue after two heartbreaking fourth-place finishes at the London and Rio Games.
She faces a stacked field ahead, as American Kara Kohler, 30, clinched her heat in her return to Olympic rowing, and Irelands Sanita Puspure, 39, proved she was worth the hype, winning her round by more than eight seconds after bringing home World Championship titles in 2018 and 2019.
Another clear contender, Britain’s Victoria Thornley, who picked up silver in the double sculls in 2016, also advanced.
On the men’s side, a rematch of the 2019 World Championship final was shaping up, after Norwegian Kjetil Borch posted the fastest overall time in 6:54.46, and 24-year-old German Oliver Zeidler and Sverri Nielsen, 27, of Denmark also clinched their rounds.
Croatia’s Damir Martin, who won silver in Rio, also advanced to the quarter-finals, as he aims to fight his way to the top of the podium after the retirement of New Zealands Mahe Drysdale, the winner of back-to-back gold in 2012 and 2016.
The Netherlands dominated across the board as men’s double sculls pair Melvin Twellaar and Stef Broenink set a new Olympic best, scorching their opening heat in 6:08.38 and upending an Olympic best set minutes earlier by 2018 World Champions Hugo Boucheron and Matthieu Androdias of France.
Their female counterparts, Roos de Jong and Lisa Scheenaard, clinched a spot in the semifinal after winning their heat in 6:49:90, as the Dutch women’s single and quad, and men’s quad, moved on as well.—AP