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Newz Forum: OLYMPICS: U.S. double scull reaches final in photo finish

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posted on Aug, 18 2004 @ 08:06 AM
Americans Aquil Abdullah and Henry Nuzum rowed their double scull furiously down the stretch to cross the line in a dead heat with Norway on Wednesday, winning both teams a spot in a rare seven-boat final.

The two boats were vying for the third and final qualifying spot out of their semifinal, and the American boat initially was declared the winner. Norway argued the photo was inconclusive and a jury of officials with FISA, rowing's governing body, agreed, setting up the seven-boat race for the medals.

At the halfway point of the 2,000-meter race, Abdullah, the U.S. men's crew team's first black Olympian, and Nuzum, trailed both Australia and Norway for the third and final qualifying spot as Italy and France broke away.

With Abdullah shouting encouragement from the bow, Nuzum picked up the pace, and they nosed past the Norwegians in the last few dozen meters.

Norway made a frantic effort to pull ahead as the bows of both boats poked ahead of each other several times.

"There was a point where I looked over and said, 'We got this,' '' Abdullah said. "I probably said some other things as well, but I don't know if you can print that.''

Nuzum and Abdullah embraced as they waited for the official word.

"We were pretty happy with our race regardless of the outcome,'' Nuzum said. "It was our best race of the year.''

The time clock initially showed both the American and Norwegians with 6:14.70 at the finish and officials took more than a minute to study a photo before posting the official result.

The American's were given a time of 6:14.69, their fastest ever.

"Pretty awesome. We're in the medal race now and any anything can happen,'' Abdullah said after getting out of the boat. "I'm just thankful to have a partner like Henry to lay it on in the last 500 there and take us through.''

It was first bright moment in what started as a rough day for U.S. boats. The only other boat to stay in medal contention Wednesday was the women's quadruple scull, and they did it by a hair.

With the top four boats advancing to the final, the American quad was firmly in fourth much of the race, but nearly got clipped at the line by hard-charging Denmark, which finished only 0.02 of a second back.

Sculler Jennifer Devine finished fourth in her semifinal, one spot below what she needed to keep alive her run for a medal in rowing.

Devine had drawn a field that included two-time defending gold medalist Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus, two-time defending world champion Rumyana Neykova of Bulgaria and New Zealand's Sonia Waddell.

With Karsten and Neykova dueling for the win -- which Karsten took by 0.15 of a second -- Devine fought to stay with Waddell early but dropped five seconds behind at 1,000 meters and never recovered.

Soon after, Luke Walton and Russian-born Artour Samsonov missed advancing to the pairs final in a race that included an unusual finish as Canadian and South African boats appeared to knock oars while sprinting for a final qualifying spot.

South African Donovan Cech saw his oar fly out of his hands and his boat turned sideways while Canada continued through in what would have been a berth into the medal race. But officials disqualified the Canadians, saying they had crossed into South Africa's lane over the last 100 meters and had been warned to move over. The ruling moved South Africa into third.

The Canadians appealed, saying Cech's oar was jolted from catching the water wrong, not contact with another oar. A FISA jury rejected that claim, saying contact is not required for interference and that the oars had overlapped.

FISA executive director Matt Smith said it remained unclear whether there was contact. Canada has appealed the jury's ruling to FISA's board, which was to make a final ruling before racing resumed Thursday.

Meanwhile, the U.S. men's four struggled to a sixth place in their semifinal, eliminating them from medal contention. The women's pair of Sarah Jones and Kate MacKenzie struggled to a fourth in a race where only the top two boats moved on.

Britain's Matthew Pinsent remained firmly on track for his fourth gold medal as his four boat won its semifinal. And the Canadian eight, upset in their preliminary heat by the world record-setting American crew earlier this week, won its repechage -- or second-chance race -- to get another crack at their North American rivals in Sunday's eights final.


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