Porter cruises into semifinals
By JIM KERNAGHAN -- Free Press Sports Columnist
SYDNEY -- There's no problem with Derek Porter's physical equipment, it's the hardware around the giant rower that troubles him.
"I'm feeling great physically, right on target," Porter said Sunday after almost coasting to an east heat win in the men's singles in perfect conditions. "The past year I've been getting thrown a few curve balls with the equipment. There are a couple of things but we're sorting them out."
A broken blade, a new setup that wasn't quite right, a wing rigger that was the same are a few of the setbacks in the three-time Olympian's preparations over the summer.
Porter set a relatively leisurely pace over the first half of the 2,000 metres and coasted in 4 1/2 seconds faster than Matthew Wells of Great Britain to go directly to one of the semi-finals in a time of seven minutes, 2.24 seconds.
In the women's singles, Kristen Wall finished fourth. Pressed into action due to a training camp injury suffered by Marnie McBean, she'll go into the repechage.
"She hasn't raced singles since juniors but she's not overcome by it," veteran eights cox Lesley Thompson said. "She sees this as an opportunity."
Porter, meantime, has his sights set on what has been billed as one of rowing's great gold medal battles.
The 32-year-old chiropractor, New Zealand's Rob Waddell and Xeno Mueller of Switzerland are extremely close. At the World Cup in Lucerne last summer, Waddell won in six minutes, 53.13 seconds and Porter was 1.02 seconds behind.
Waddell won his heat in 6:54.20 Sunday and Mueller his in 6:57.38.
The biggest surprise came in the women's pairs, where world champions Emma Robinson of Winnipeg and Theresa Luke of 100 Mile House, B.C., were shunted to the repechages by surprising South Africans Helen Fleming and Colleen Orsmond.
Besides Porter, the only other Canadian boat earning a semifinals berth was the men's pair of Phil Graham of Corner Brook, Nfld., and Henry Hering of Montreal.
-- with files from CP