On a day when the other Canadian boats faltered, it was the men’s pairs duo of David Calder and Scott Frandsen that finally came through.
The silver medalists from Beijing won their heat on Saturday afternoon to advance straight to Wednesday’s semi-finals, where they may run into a New Zealand team that ripped off a world record time of 6:08.50 in a different heat.
Calder and Frandsen were the only Canadians of the three crews racing Saturday to avoid the repechages, outpacing Australia, Netherlands and the U.S. with a time of 6:23.80.
That was a far cry from the New Zealand boat – and only the seventh best time of the day – but the Canadians were quick to caution the best is yet to come.
They will need to finish in the top three in their semi-final to qualify for one of six spots in Friday’s final.
“Taking nothing away from what the Kiwi pair did today – it’s impressive – we raced our race to get out in front in control and race the race we were in,” Frandsen said. “We weren’t really concerned with times. We knew they were fast conditions, but we weren’t going to post a time.
“We wanted to get out here and do what we knew we could do with the idea that we can step on it for the semi and the final. So yeah the best is yet to come.”
Peter Cookson, Rowing Canada’s high performance director, called the pair “professionals” after watching them cruise to victory over less experienced competition.
Calder and Frandsen are racing in their fourth and third Olympics after briefly retiring following their second place finish in 2008.
“Those guys are incredible thoroughbreds and they are always ready to race,” Cookson said. “They are always putting themselves out there and they want to win, incredibly badly.”
New Zealand’s big day, meanwhile, was hardly a fluke. Hamish Bond and Eric Murray have been dominating the men’s pairs for years and are a heavy gold medal favourite.
On a fast course at Eton Dorney, they surpassed what was a 10-year old record time by nearly six seconds and haven’t lost a race since pairing up back in 2009.
Altogether, they have won four world championship golds together in the past five years, with the first coming as members of the four-man boat before they began competing as a two.
Despite their easy win, they were quick to play down it’s carry over to the semis and finals.
“This is only the heat,” Murray said. “We’re under no illusions. We just want to go through each step. Today was just about getting across that line first.”
“No medals for heats unfortunately,” Bond said. “ But it’s a confidence boost for us.”