TOKYO, July 24 (Xinhua) -- The United States topped their heat in the women's eight in the Tokyo Olympic rowing regatta here on Saturday, seeking their fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal in the event.
The United States finished their heat in 6 minutes and 8.69 seconds, earning a direct spot in final A. Rio Olympic bronze medalists Romania were edged into the second place in 6:09.95. Australia finished the third in the heat.
The United States is expected to become the first team to win the women's eight at four successive Olympic Games. Romania won this event at three Games in a row from 1996 to 2004.
Commenting on their rivals, US rower Katelin Guregian said: "The Romanians are always really, really fast. I remember in Rio they were qualified at the last chance also and then they got a medal, so we don't underestimate anyone, especially not the Romanians."
In the other heat, New Zealand held off Canada to take the first place in 6:07.65. Canada and China, in the second and third place, will both face a repechage.
Caleb Shepherd, cox of New Zealand's women's eight, said: "We came prepared for a really tough battle. I think that heat race was so - it's the Olympic Games, everyone came to race and go as fast as they can. We just had to stay calm and really move when we needed to towards the end."
"Happy to get the win and move on, but we'll learn a lot from that race. It was good," she added.
New Zealand has yet to win a Olympic medal in the women's eight. On the potential for a medal in this event in Tokyo, Shepherd said: "It would be amazing really. It would be history-making. A couple of years ago we did that by winning the world championships and we're just as motivated to create our own piece of history. We're just focused on our team and doing the best we can."
Valent Sinkovic and Martin Sinkovic of Croatia won their heat in the men's pair in 6:32.41, the best record in all three heats.
They were men's double sculls Olympic champions in 2016, but switched from sculling to sweep event.
On their third Olympics in a third boat class, after the quadruple sculls (silver medalist in 2012 London Games) and double sculls, Valent said: "Every Olympics is special. It was really hard these last five years in the pair. We had mixed results, mixed training. We didn't expect to do it like that. In the end we are satisfied where we are."
On switching to the pair, Martin said: "I think I could say the pair is the hardest thing. If we were in the four it would be easier. The hardest was the beginning. We knew it would be bad and we expected it, but maybe after the first year we expected to go exponentially better and better and for it to go good because in the double, in 99 percent of the training, we felt comfortable and the boat was going good. In the pair it's not like that."
"Even this year we had some problems. You know, when it's not going good, it's just a bad feeling and you feel angry because you can't do anything. That's the whole part of the experience in the pair. It keeps you humble," Martin added.
Jason Osborne and Jonathan Rommelmann of Germany posted the fastest heat time in the lightweight men's double sculls in 6:21.71.
"There's always stuff that you can improve, but I think we're pretty happy with this race. We did pretty much everything we wanted to do in this race, concentrating on the third 500 and making a push there," Rommelmann said.
In the men's eight, Germany and New Zealand earned direct final spots.