U.S. Olympic women’s eight rowing team set to be named, eyes extending dynasty

U.S. rowing women's eight
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LUCERNE, Switzerland (AP) — The saying ”don’t change a winning team” doesn’t apply to the U.S. women’s eight, the most successful boat in international rowing.

The Americans have won 10 consecutive world and Olympic titles in the event, a winning streak that is unmatched in most sports but little known outside the rowing world.

The U.S. has dominated the event since 2006 even though coach Tom Terhaar has consistently changed the lineup, moving rowers around the boat or replacing them with others, eager to be part of a seemingly self-perpetuating dynasty.

The competition to make the women’s eight boat is so fierce that even athletes who consistently perform at the highest level know that no one is guaranteed a spot when Terhaar picks his crew for the Olympics on June 20.

”That’s one of the things that feeds into the success of the team,” said Meghan Musnicki, the longest-serving member of the crew, with six Olympic and World Championship gold medals in the event since 2010. ”There’s no room to get comfortable.”

The 34-year-old from Naples, Florida, helped the U.S. boat fight off a late challenge from Great Britain to win a World Cup regatta on May 29 in Lucerne, Switzerland – the last international test for the Americans before Rio.

Of the nine women in the boat (eight rowers plus coxswain Katelin Snyder), five remained from the crew that won gold in last year’s World Championships. Only two, Musnicki and Eleanor Logan, competed in the women’s eight in the previous Summer Games.

”For every kid that’s here we’ve got one who isn’t here who pushes these guys,” Terhaar said, as his rain-soaked crew disassembled the boat on the banks of lake Rotsee in Lucerne. ”So it’s never the same people. It’s always new people.”

Terhaar, who has been in charge of the U.S. women’s team since 2001, said he’s looking for powerful and tall rowers for the eight, the biggest and fastest boat in rowing.

”Our stroke right now is not the tallest kid. But she strikes up a good rhythm,” he said of Amanda Elmore, of West Lafayette, Indiana, who sits closest to the stern. ”So it really depends on the group that you have. You try to play around and find something that works.”

Some teams tend to stick with crews that have performed well in the past. New Zealand’s lineup in Lucerne was identical to the one that finished second behind the Americans in last year’s World Championships.

Like the U.S., Great Britain has tried many different lineups since placing fifth at the London Olympics, and appears to have found the strongest yet this year. The Brits won the European Championships in May and followed up with a strong performance in Lucerne, beating New Zealand to the finish line, less than a second behind the U.S. boat.

Katie Greves, who will be competing in her third Olympics in Rio, said that race changed the ”mindset” of the crew. Instead of hoping for a bronze medal, the British women now see themselves as the biggest threat to the Americans.

”You don’t want to give them too much respect. They are only rowers,” Greves said. ”There is no reason we can’t beat them, just because they have this historical pedigree.”

Each sport measures success differently so winning streaks are hard to compare. But it’s difficult to find a team in any sport that can match the U.S. team’s 10 consecutive gold medals in the women’s eight.

Norwegian figure-skater Sonja Henie won 13 straight world and Olympic titles from 1927-36. The Soviet Union won nine consecutive world and Olympic gold medals in ice hockey (1963-71). In rowing, the U.S. dominated the men’s eight with eight consecutive Olympic titles (1920-56). At that time there were no world championships.

”They’ve done a ton of research to try to find another team in any sport that has had such a winning dynasty, and they weren’t able to find one,” Musnicki said. ”It’s special. It’s an honor and a privilege to be part of it.”

Despite the intense competition, there’s also an unmistakable camaraderie among the U.S. rowers, whether they make the team or not, said Snyder, the 28-year-old coxswain from Detroit. She was deeply disappointed not to make the cut for the 2012 Olympics, but has coxed the women’s eight since the year after.

In an event where synchronization is paramount, gelling with and pushing your team mates means as much as a powerful stroke, she said.

”You don’t go fast by beating another girl,” Snyder said. ”You go fast by being your best self and bringing that girl with you.”

MORE: Musnicki, poetic pride of Naples, is veteran leader of U.S. eight

French Open: Novak Djokovic rolls to start Grand Slam record quest

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic began his quest for a record-breaking 23rd men’s Grand Slam singles title by beating 114th-ranked American Aleksandar Kovacevic 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (1) in the French Open first round on Monday.

Djokovic, seeded third, next gets 83rd-ranked Hungarian Marton Fucsovics. Djokovic could meet top seed Carlos Alcaraz in the semifinals. They are the favorites in the absence of 14-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal, whom Djokovic tied for the overall men’s Slam titles record with his 10th Australian Open crown in January.

Earlier Monday, Sloane Stephens looked sharp in her opening match with a 6-0, 6-4 win over two-time major finalist Karolina Pliskova.

While Stephens’ only Grand Slam title came at the 2017 U.S. Open, she’s also had sustained success at Roland Garros, finishing as a runner-up to Simona Halep in 2018 and reaching two quarterfinals on the red clay in Paris — including last year.

“This is my favorite court in the world, so I’m super happy to be back,” Stephens told the crowd on Court Philippe Chatrier. “To start a Slam on your favorite court, your favorite surface, is always incredible.”

She helped American women go 4-0 through the first few hours of play on Day 2 of the tournament after a 1-4 start on Sunday, when the only U.S. victory came in a match between two players from the country: Jessica Pegula beat Danielle Collins.

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Madison Keys, the runner-up to Stephens in New York six years ago and a semifinalist at Roland Garros in 2018, beat Kaia Kanepi 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 on Monday to improve her career record in the first round of majors to 35-5.

Keys next plays American qualifier Kayla Day, who eliminated French wild-card entry Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 6-1.

Also, Croatian-born American Bernarda Pera beat former No. 2-ranked Anett Kontaveit 7-6 (6), 6-2.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, a finalist in Paris in 2021, breezed past Czech teenager Linda Fruhvirtova 6-2, 6-2; and 22nd-seeded Donna Vekic beat qualifier Dayana Yastremska 6-2, 7-5.

Stephens was down a break in the second set against Pliskova but then won three straight games to close it out.

Stephens had a 19-16 edge in winners and committed only 10 unforced errors to 31 by Pliskova, who lost in the finals of the U.S. Open in 2016 and Wimbledon in 2021.

“This court is a bit tricky. You have to play on it a lot to understand when the wind is blowing and where it’s coming,” Stephens said. “The more you play on it, the more you understand it. But it’s a very complicated court. But that’s what makes it so amazing.”

Stephens won a small clay-court tournament in Saint Malo, France, at the start of the month and also reached the semifinals of the Morocco Open last week after only playing a total of three matches at bigger clay events in Madrid and Rome.

“Last year, my clay season wasn’t great, but I played amazing at Roland Garros last year,” Stephens said, “and this year, I really wanted to get matches and play a lot and to see where that got me.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Canada wins men’s hockey world title; Latvia wins first medal

IIHF Hockey World Championship

TAMPERE, Finland — Samuel Blais scored two goals to rally Canada to a 5-2 victory over Germany in the final of the world men’s hockey championship on Sunday.

It’s a record 28th world title for Canada, and its second in three years. Russia has 27 while Germany has never won the trophy.

Blais netted with a backhand 4:51 into the final period for a 3-2 lead for Canada, which was playing in its fourth straight final.

“It feels really good,” Blais said. “We’ve been in Europe for a month and we’ve all waited for that moment to play for the gold medal game. And we’re lucky enough to have won it.”

Lawson Crouse, Tyler Toffoli and Scott Laughton also scored for Canada, Peyton Krebs had two assists and goaltender Samuel Montembeault stopped 21 shots.

Toffoli stretched the lead to 4-2 from the left circle with 8:09 remaining and Laughton made it 5-2 with an empty net goal.

Adam Fantilli became only the second Canadian player after Jonathan Toews to win gold at the world juniors and world championship the same year.

Canada had to come back twice in the final.

John Peterka wristed a shot past Montembeault from the left circle 7:44 into the game. It was the sixth goal for the Buffalo Sabres forward at the tournament.

Blais was fed by Krebs to beat goaltender Mathias Niederberger and tie it 1-1 at 10:47.

Daniel Fischbuch put the Germans ahead again with a one-timer with 6:13 to go in the middle period.

Crouse equalized on a power play with 2:32 remaining in the frame.

It was the first medal for Germany since 1953 when it was second behind Sweden.

The two previously met just once in the final with Canada winning 6-1 in 1930.


Defenseman Kristian Rubins scored his second goal 1:22 into overtime to lead Latvia to a 4-3 victory over the United States and earn a bronze medal earlier Sunday.

It’s the first top-three finish for Latvia at the tournament. Its previous best was a seventh place it managed three times.

The U.S. lost in the bronze medal game for the second straight year. The U.S. team was cruising through the tournament with eight straight wins until it was defeated by Germany in the semifinal 4-3 in overtime.

Rubins rallied Latvia with his first with 5:39 to go in the final period to tie the game at 3 to force overtime.

Roberts Bukarts and Janis Jaks also scored for Latvia.

Rocco Grimaldi scored twice for the U.S. in the opening period to negate Latvia’s 1-0 and 2-1 leads.

Matt Coronato had put the U.S. 3-2 ahead 6:19 into the final period.

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