Host City: Beijing, China
Venue(s): Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park, Mapo, Shunyi
Date Started: August 10, 2008
Date Finished: August 17, 2008
The women’s lightweight double sculls at the 2008 Summer Olympics was a relatively open event, as no nation had been particularly dominant at the recent World Championships and Romania, the defending Olympic champion, did not send a crew to this event in Beijing. Furthermore, only Australia was represented by a World Championship-winning crew, 2007 victors Marguerite Houston and Amber Halliday. Germany sent 2005 World Champion Marie-Louise Dräger,who was joined by Berit Carow, while China’s 2006 World Champion, Xu Dongxiang, made an appearance for the host nation with Yu Hua. Greece’s Khrysa Biskitzi and Alexandra Tsiavou, meanwhile, had won the event at the European Championships when it was resurrected in 2007, while Cuba’s Yaima Velázquez and Ismaray Marrero were the reigning Pan American champions.
Two of the opening heats were won by China and Germany, but it was the Netherlands’ Kirsten van der Kolk and Marit van Eupen, the 2004 Olympic bronze medalists, who posted the fastest time. Following the 2004 Games, this duo had had internal struggles relating to their different training attitudes and broke up, with Van der Kolk quitting the sport and Van Eupen going on to win the women’s lightweight single sculls at the 2005, 2006, and 2007 World Championships. In 2007, however, they reunited to compete in Beijing. Both Cuba and Australia were eliminated in the semi-finals, in heats won by the Netherlands and the Canadian duo of Melanie Kok and Tracy Cameron. Canada had been the 2007 Pan American Games bronze medalist, albeit with a different crew. In the final, Germany, Canada, and the Finnish duo of Sanna Stén and Minna Nieminen were neck and neck for the first half of the course, but Finland pulled ahead while Germany and Canada slowly fell back and were passed by the Netherlands. Even Finland eventually succumbed to the drive of the Dutch crew, however, and surrendered the gold medal to van der Kolk and van Eupen. Thus Stén and Nieminen, the 2007 World runners-up and 2005 bronze medalists, took silver, Finland’s first Olympic rowing medal since Pertti Karppinen had won the men’s single sculls three consecutive times from 1976 through 1984. The battle for bronze was much tighter and a photo finish was required to determine that the Canadians had edged out the Germans by 0.04 seconds.