Mastracci to row in Olympic final
BY STEPHEN DYELL
The Canadian Women’s Eight featuring Thorold native Natalie Mastracci rowed to victory in their first heat of the day, advancing the group that never trailed towards a chance of gold. Their win against Romania and the Netherlands at a time of 6:13.91 sends the eight rowers directly into the finals on August 2.
The 23-year-old Mastracci is beside plenty of experience that features Janine Hanson, Rachelle Viinberg, Krista Guloien, Lauren Wilkinson, Ashley Brzozowicz, Darcy Marquardt, Andreanne Morin and coxswain Lesley Thompson-Willie in her record-setting sixth Olympics.
Morin, Brzozowicz, Marquardt and Thompson-Willie are looking to recover from the 2008 Olympics which saw the eight members of Canada’s women’s rowing team finish just one second from a bronze medal.
With new young talent that includes the Thorold native, medal chances on the river seem higher than ever but will have tough competition against the United States that brings back nearly the entire 2008 gold medal team.
United States won their heat on Sunday but trailed the Canadian pace at 6:14.68. The repechage will take place on July 31 to determine who races against the two favorites. Check local listings for availability of the race as it starts at 5:30 p.m.
Another Thorold resident Tonya Verbeek will look for that elusive gold medal on August 4.
The 34-year-old has won the Olympic silver medal in Athens 2004 and followed it up with a bronze medal in the 55kg weight class at the Beijing Olympic Games but is hoping to finish her Olympic career on a high note.
She will have a tough task ahead as defending gold medalist Saori Yoshida looks to repeat on a legendary career. Yoshida holds 14 gold medals from competitions across the world but recently was beaten to end a 58-match win streak. Verbeek was beaten by Yoshida in the finals at Athens and then was taken out in the semifinal by the 29-year-old Japanese wrestler in Beijing but is looking for a different outcome if the two end up meeting in the near future.
Qualifying matches begin at 6 p.m. and the gold medal match is set for August 9.
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