Chapter 4: Success and Disappointment.
^Photo credit: Pearl using Marcella’s phone
Yeah, um, I’m not very good at estimating how many parts a series should have.
After the previous day of hard racing, I’d say we were a little more mentally prepared for random who-knows-what type of things. Expect the unexpected, right?
The second day of racing was actually much better than the first. Even though the second day had originally been scheduled to have more races than the first, since the first day of racing was so messed up, we actually had fewer races on the second day (9). It also helped that we didn’t have to sit around on the water in the cold rain for a million years before the first race. Carolyn was also recovered! Lucky girl, she missed the laborious, exhausting day of heats and quarterfinal racing and hard work and gets to race just in time for the finals.
First race of the day was the standard mixed 200 m semifinal. The top two teams from each of the semis would move on to the grand final. We were up against China 2, who won, but we got our second place finish, which moved us on to the final, ahead of Hong Kong and Philippines. China 1 and Thailand were the other two countries to move on to the final.
And then then the grand final. Thailand, lane 1. China 1, lane 2. China 2, lane 3. Canada, lane 4. We did this thing where a TV camera panned across the lanes and as the official announced each country, the respective teams would emit a war cry and lift their paddles. Today as the start to the filming had a larger audience than the previous day with people being shipped in by the busload. Apparently 30-40 million viewers were expected. We had even seen ads for the event on TV in our hotel. While seemingly very standard for the native Chinese teams, it was a new experience for the Canadians and made us feel cool.
Back to the race. We had a great lane assignment: next to China 2 (or as we called them, “Big China,” being the faster of the two), with Thailand on the outside of China 1. Big China, we knew, would be fast. China 1 too would be fast. And Thailand would be fast. It was going to be tough. On this shallow race course, even unevenly matched teams would be close, carried through the wash of the first boat. China 2 led easily and the next three teams were all close. Pretty sure the boats exchanged leads several times. In the finish, I had an inkling, a suspicion, a guess that Canada had inched to second. However, I have this very real fear of calling the result of a race and being wrong, so I like to remain conservative and not say anything, but I had this hope. And you know what? Canada came through! In a hard surge, Canada slipped into a slightly unexpected second place, 0.106 s ahead of China 1. That was something to celebrate.
We received big, heavy silver medals for our efforts. Listened respectfully to the Chinese national anthem. Took several selfies. We had about three minutes to bask in our success before it was time to prepare for the next race.
500 m time. Typically one of Canada’s strengths (compared to the traditional Chinese strength of sprints). It was the first race that I had been able to watch as Marcella drummed it. Matt Robert, Alex, and I rushed over to the sidelines where we could get a good view of the race course. I sneaked my way onto the floating platform closest to the race course, which was forbidden to regular audience members, but I charmed my way into getting permission by sweet-talking the security guards into letting me in (not really, I just told them I was Canadian and asked to go over to film). We won our heat easily against Russia and Philippines. That would allow us to bypass the repechage stage. Nice. We were feeling good.
And then reality came crashing down.
Our next race was the 1 km semifinal. Up against Big China in one semi while China 1 was expected to have an easy time of it against Russia in the other. Yeah…Not gonna lie, the women raced like crap. The men were apparently still good, though missing a little bit of the fire from the previous day. Probably a combination of not being used to the small boats and bringing the stroke rate up too much without enough power to back it up, as well as a couple of severe timing issues. Point is, we lost. I mean, the team tried and raced hard but at the same time, Big China just outclassed us. Unfortunate, but true. And so we got ready for our semi against Russia, which we expected to win easily.
In a very unexpected turn of events…Russia beat China 1.
So apparently the organizers had changed the turn buoys from the previous day, which confused the China 1 steer and caused them to miss some of the buoys, resulting in a bunch of penalties and putting them behind Russia. Basically, that resulted in China 2 winning an easy gold with Russia getting a very random silver and Canada and China 1 competing for bronze.
We raced better, but we still lost. Were we disappointed? Of course. We had come into this competition with high expectations. We were one of the top teams here. But China was strong. Both Chinas were strong. We would have to readjust our expectations and adapt.
Change gears once more. Time for the 100 m sprints! These were going to be fun races (though I wouldn’t be in any, as Marcella drummed). Each country would race twice, against a different opponent each time, and the progression would be based on time. After the first heat, teams would remain on the water and circle back to the start area for the second race. Sin the sprint master finally got to race. Unfortunately, after the first race he didn’t feel well and had to get off, so even though the team wasn’t supposed to dock, we were allowed to make a switch and Jessy hopped on. Fortunately, both races went well, with Canada ranked third overall (we had beat Thailand in one time while they beat us in another, but we beat them by a larger margin. Of course, both Chinas were ahead).
Lastly, the 400 m relay. There was probably a semifinal, but I don’t actually remember (my bad for waiting so long to write this post). If there was, we probably lost and therefore probably lost against one of the Chinas, because we ended up having to race Thailand again in the minor final. We had already beaten them once and we were confident we could again, but we knew it was going to be close. We had the suspicion that the Thai men would try to stay close by washriding off of ours and inch ahead at the finish. Since the women raced on the outside of the race course at opposite ends of each other while the men raced in the middle of the very shallow course next to each other, this was a very real possibility. To circumvent this, the coaches made the decision to stay a little further from the Thais and race closer to the women. Unfortunately that resulted in the women’s wash hitting the men, which it would have anyway, but having a larger impact. Basically a wall of water hit the guys, disorienting a few and possibly causing a couple to miss a stroke. It may or may not have had an effect on the result of the race but regardless…the result is we lost.
The loss of the 400 m relay bronze to the Thais was probably one of the biggest disappointments of the entire competition. It was so close that especially from the terrible angle of the women we couldn’t see the result and had to wait until the Thais started cheering before we realised what had happened. Good on the Thais, but it was a dejected return to the docks for the Canadians.
One silver, two losses. Two more finals, big races each of them. It speaks to the calibre of the national team how each person was able to refocus after big disappointments and come back again to be all in for the next race.
Stay tuned for the last episode of the series! I am 99% sure it will be part 3/3 and not part 2.875/3.