AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands – In his fourth appearance at the international level, Yale heavyweight crew captain and rising senior Tom Dethlefs is finally bringing home gold from a world rowing championship. Dethlefs sat in six seat of the USA men's eight that powered through to the finish line in Sunday's A final to win the gold medal at the 2011 World Rowing Under-23 Championships. Dethlefs' crew finished in a time of 5:24.31, both a new U23 world record and only 4.46 seconds off the fastest 2k time ever, set by the U.S. men's eight in the finals of the 2004 Athens Olympics. Dethlefs was one of five Bulldogs competing at this year's U23 Worlds, and his crew's gold medal brought the American medal count to four.
Dethlefs and his crew found success early in the regatta with a crucial win in the men's eight heats on Thursday. The U.S. maintained a two to three second lead for the first 1500 meters of the race, but Great Britain came on strong towards the end. Despite a rousing sprint from Great Britain, it would be the Americans (5:41.86) who held on to win the first heat by a margin of 0.07 seconds, sending Great Britain (5:41.93) to Friday's repechage. The first-place finish earned the U.S. an extra day of rest assured the Americans a good lane assignment for the final.
Though it was not listed as a crew to watch in the official Amsterdam Rowing preview of the regatta, the Czech Republic's eight showed in its heat that it would be a tough crew to row through. The Czechs won the second heat on Thursday afternoon, and while their time of 5:46.29 was slower than those of the U.S. and Great Britain, the Czechs had broken open water on the field and had a five-second lead over second-place Australia coming into the last 500 meters. This same lineup of Czechs raced earlier this summer at the FISA World Cup II in Hamburg, Germany, finishing third and only four seconds back from the reigning senior world champion German eight.
The U.S., Great Britain and the Czech Republic then emerged as the medal contenders for Sunday's A final. Whereas in Thursday's heat the Czechs waited until around the 500 meter-mark to make their move, they went for broke right off the line on Sunday. The U.S. eight stayed with them and took a big move at the 750 to get their bow ball in front. From that point on it would be advantage USA. At the 1000, the U.S. had a lead of 0.82 seconds, and by the 1500 it had grown to 1.17 seconds. Ultimately the U.S. would cross the line with a very fast time of 5:24.31, exactly 1.9 seconds ahead of the Czech Republic (5:26.21) to win the gold medal and set a U23 world record.
Last year's winner, Germany (5:30.93), would not make the medal dock this year as the Germans were walked through by Great Britain, who finished third (5:29.15). Poland finished in fifth place (5:40.70), and the home team of The Netherlands finished sixth (5:45.42).
Dethlefs was one of three Yale heavyweights competing at U23 Worlds. Rising junior Harry Picone and rising sophomore Owen Symington also raced at Bosbaan, rowing for Australia in a coxed four made up of Australians studying at American universities. Their crew narrowly missed making it out of the Friday's repechage, finishing third behind New Zealand by about two seconds. The crew did, however, go on to finish first in Saturday's B final, clocking in at 6:15.35 ahead of Italy (6:17.60).
Report filed by Yale Sports Publicity