Porter receives favourable draw
By NEIL STEVENS -- Canadian Press
SYDNEY -- Derek Porter got a favourable draw, while other Canadian crews will be in tough when the Olympic rowing regatta begins.
Porter's single sculls opponents in his heat Sunday (5:30 p.m. EDT, Saturday) are not among the world's top-ranked men. The Victoria sculler, the 1999 world silver medallist, is expected to win the first heat and advance to the Thursday semifinal.
Porter, reigning world champion Rob Waddell of New Zealand, and 1996 Olympic champion Xeno Mueller of Switzerland will battle it out for podium spots. Waddell is in the second heat, and Mueller is in the fourth and last heat. So, they won't square off until the semis.
Kristen Wall of Victoria, the spare who was activated to fill the women's single sculls spot Marnie McBean vacated due to injury, faces reigning world champion Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus in her heat. With one to advance to the semis, Wall will be forced into second-chance repechages unless Karsten fails to show up at the starting line.
Emma Robinson of Winnipeg and Theresa Luke of 100 Mile House, B.C., the reigning world women's pairs champions, face a big test in their heat. The draw pits them against impressive Australians Rachael Taylor and Kate Slatter, who have beaten them the four times they've gone to the start together this year. The winner of the heat goes directly to the final next weekend. The prospect of repechages doesn't appeal to Canada's champions.
"It's a good draw in the sense we'll find out right off the bat where we stack up against the Aussies," said coach Al Morrow.
In men's pairs, the top three in each of three heats advance to semis, so Phil Graham of Corner Brook, Nfld., and Henry Hering of Montreal have a chance Sunday to avoid repechages. It's unlikely they'll win their heat, however, since they're up against world record-holders Ed Coode and Greg Searle of Britain.
In men's double sculls, Todd Hallett of Dartmouth, N.S., and Dom Seiterle of Montreal are likely to be shunted to repechages. Only the winner advances to the semis in the event, and Hallett and Seiterle were drawn against three excellent European crews in their heat.
On the Monday program (5:30 p.m. EDT, Sunday, CBC), Iain Brambell of Brentwood Bay, B.C., Chris Davidson of Oakville, Ont., Gavin Hassett of Victoria and Jon Beare of Toronto got a good lightweight men's fours draw. With the top three in the heat to go to semis, they stand a good chance of going through.
Only seven countries have sent women's eights. Canada has to race the United States and the Netherlands in its three-boat heat. The winner goes directly to the final, so coxswain Lesley Thompson of London, Ont., will be pushing her crew to beat the Americans and Dutch to avoid a repechage.
"I rate the U.S. and Dutch as top contenders for medals," Morrow said. "If we can win our heat, we'll be in the hunt for gold."
World-champion Romania and highly rated Australia go head-to-head in the other heat.
The Canadian men's eight is starting at a repechage. It has Australia and Britain in its heat, and both countries have clearly been better this year than Canada's boat stroked by Adam Parfitt of Victoria.
Fiona Milne of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., and Tracy Duncan of Saskatoon must win their lightweight double sculls heat to get a ticket to the semis. The repechage route appears a more likely destination.