CLAYTON, CA — Clayton’s Kara Kohler rowed her way into the single sculls semi-finals at the Tokyo Olympics after taking second by 1.09 seconds to reigning world champion Sanita Puspure of Ireland in Sunday’s (Tokyo time) quarterfinals on the Sea Forest Waterway.
Two-time Olympian Kohler took the lead over Serbia’s Jovana Arsic in the opening quarter of the race, with Puspure sitting in third and China’s Yan Jiang fourth. Kohler continued to lead by just about a second as the scullers hit the midway point of the race, with Jiang moving into second and Puspure holding the third position.
The defending world champion from Ireland began to close the gap on Kohler during the third quarter of the race, pulling up nearly even with just 500 meters to go. Puspure was able to maintain that momentum over the final stretch to claim the victory in a 7:58.30. Kohler finished just over a second behind in a 7:59.39, with Jiang taking the final qualification spot in an 8:00.01.
“I was certainly very nervous,” Kohler said. “I’ll probably be very nervous for every race here, but my plan was to race for the full 2k and see how that went, so that’s what I did. I don’t know what they’re doing (in terms of rating.) I’m just sensing them on the course. I didn’t know that Sanita was rating higher. I guess I could’ve assumed that considering I was rating pretty low. That’s something I want to improve on for the next race.”
Kohler will take on scullers from Iran, Austria, New Zealand, Canada and Great Britain in the second of two semifinals at 8 p.m. Wednesday (California time). She had the sixth fastest time overall among the four quarterfinal races. The top three in each semi-final reach the medal race at 5:30 p.m. Thursday (California time).
In her first race in Tokyo, Clayton Valley High and Cal Berkeley grad Kohler advanced directly to the quarterfinals thanks to a win in the first of six heats. With the top three moving on to the quarterfinals, Iran’s Nazanin Malaei took the early lead before Kohler moved into the top spot as the scullers hit the midway point. Kohler continued to extend her lead over the back half of the race, while Belarus’ Tatsiana Klimovich moved into second position ahead of Malaei. As the scullers crossed the line, Kohler finished with a time of 7:49.71, a little more than two seconds ahead of Klimovich.
Letting some adrenaline out
“It was just so exciting to be racing – let some of that adrenaline out during the race and get some of the nerves out,” Kohler said.
The U.S. has nine crews competing including the women’s single sculls, women’s double sculls, lightweight women’s double sculls, women’s quadruple sculls, women’s pair, men’s four, women’s four, men’s eight and women’s eight.
Jay Bedecarré is a long-time resident and writer in Concord and Clayton. He began his newspaper writing career while still a senior at Mt. Diablo High School and he has been part of The Pioneer since its inception in 2003. Jay also operates Bay Area Festivals, presenting events around the San Francisco Bay Area including Bay Area KidFest annually in Downtown Concord.