It was a highly successful weekend for all three Stanford women rowers who participated in the World Rowing Under-23 Championships over the weekend in Brest, Belarus. All three made their way to the medal stand.
Grace Luczak and Julie Smith each earned gold with the U.S. Women's Eight and Women's Four, respectively, and Lindsay Meyer captured bronze in the Women's Single Sculls.
The trio was part of an overall U.S. team effort that yielded seven medals, breaking the previous record of four won in 2002 when the event was still known as the World Under 23 Regatta.
Smith captured the first gold out of the Cardinal contingent. In the Women's Four final on Saturday, the U.S. boat started off in sixth place but just over a second off the pace in a tightly contested opening 500 meters. From there, Smith and her three teammates charged ahead, trailing only Australia with 500 meters to go. Needing to make up just over a second over the final 500 meters, the U.S. four did just that, using a final surge to overtake the Australians and cross the line with a winning time of 6:40.33.
The following day, Luczak and the U.S. Eight took to the water in its final. Running in second after the opening 500 meters, the U.S. boat claimed a lead it would not relinquish by the halfway point and stretched its advantage out to a 4.51-second victory over runnerup New Zealand at the finish line.
"I'm so thrilled for our entire USA team," Luczak said. "It was amazing to stand with my teammates on the podium in my USA uniform listening to our national anthem as our flag was raised to the top."
In the final of the Women's Single Ssculls, Meyer found herself in sixth place at the 500-meter mark, but made her way up to fourth at the halfway point. She slid into third position in the third 500 meters of the course and held that spot to the end, although her final surge left her just 0.57 of a second out of second place. With the bronze medal, Meyer made U.S. Under-23 history becoming the first U.S. single sculler in history to win a medal at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships.
"Overall it was a very good race," Meyer said afterwards. "My start was better than it has been and I fought hard all 2,000 meters to make my way back through the pack. The competition was excellent and I was happy with my performance. I am so proud of our entire team for the level of racing that everyone brought this weekend. Every boat put in outstanding performances this weekend to bring us to a record team points placing and I am so proud to have been a part of it."
"It's been an excellent weekend for Team USA and for Stanford," said Stanford women's rowing head coach Yasmin Farooq. "Grace, Julie and Lindsay are three very positive and hard working teammates. It's rewarding for all of us back home to see it all pay off for them on the elite stage."
"I know Grace and the others in the 2009 U.S. Eight were on a mission to get that gold medal this year after finishing as runnerups last year," Farooq continued. "They couldn't have won it more convincingly.
"Julie has come so far since she picked up an oar for the first time at Stanford a year and a half ago. We always knew she had great potential and now she's a U-23 World Champion.
"The women's singles final looked like it was going to be battle, and it really was. For Lindsay to row through the field the way that she did to earn that bronze medal took guts and serious determination."