Devery Karz still alive in Olympic rowing competition
After finishing in third place in Monday’s lightweight double sculls heat, American rowers Devery Karz (a Park City native) and Kate Bertko had their backs up against the wall.
Only the top two teams from each heat advanced to Wednesday’s semifinals, so Karz and Bertko were out of luck. Adding insult to injury was the fact that the duo’s time would have been good enough to advance from Heat 3.
However, Heat 1 was more difficult, so Karz and Bertko were forced to row in Tuesday morning’s repechage, a secondary bracket where four of the 12 teams that didn’t advance to the semifinals through the four heats can earn their way back into medal contention.
Needing a top-two finish in Heat 1 of the repechage, Karz and Bertko put on a show for the Rio fans. After getting off to a slow start, the Americans powered their way past the other boats and edged out the Japanese boat to win the heat and advance to the semifinals.
Karz and Bertko finished the 2,000-meter race in 7 minutes, 58.90 seconds, defeating Japan (8:00.50) by 1.6 seconds. By finishing second, the Japanese boat will also qualify for Wednesday’s semifinals.
Though advancing to the semifinals with a top-two finish in Monday’s Heat 1 would have been less stressful, Linda Karz, Devery’s mother, said the Olympic rower won’t be at a disadvantage in Wednesday’s race.
“They train at such an intense level,” she said. “I’m sure right now they’re heading back to the Athlete Village to do the rest and recovery they do and the proper fueling. They just have to recover and then they’ll be right back at it.”
Rob Karz, Devery’s father, said disaster almost struck the American boat early in Tuesday’s race.
“We were sitting close to the finish line, but we were watching the start from the Jumbotron,” he said. “The commentator pointed out that Devery and Kate’s boat caught a crab. That can be a devastating and race-ending event, but they recovered extremely quickly.”
Linda explained what “catching a crab” means in the rowing world.
“[The] blade went in [the water] the wrong way, which can basically stop a boat dead,” she said. “It can twist you around. It’s like pulling the emergency brake on the boat. That was heart-stopping for us.”
Karz and Bertko managed to row their way back to the front of the pack quickly, though Linda said she and Rob weren’t celebrating until the boat crossed the finish line.
“We didn’t want her to catch another crab,” she said. “We wanted to make sure they finished a clean race. It’s not over until it’s over.”
Though making a nearly catastrophic mistake is never a good thing, Rob said he believes Devery and Bertko will learn from it and have a clean showing in Wednesday’s semis.
“They looked really strong in the last 500 meters,” he said. “They were in rhythm and composed. Hopefully they got that mistake out of their system.”
And, he added, “an additional day of racing at this level is going to be a benefit.”
At the very least, Karz and Bertko are now guaranteed a spot in either the A or B finals, which means they’ll finish among the top-12 lightweight double sculls teams in the world. Linda said Devery is in a position she’s fought hard for the past few years.
“Ending up in the C or D semis and finals would have been a big disappointment for them,” she said. “They’re in the top-12 teams in the world. Obviously, they’d like to row their best [Wednesday] and make it into the A final. It’s all gravy from here on out.”
Wednesday’s Olympic rowing program is scheduled to start at 5:30 a.m. Mountain time. Thursday is a day off for the lightweight double sculls rowers. Friday’s finals are scheduled to start at 5:30 a.m. Mountain time.
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