Felice Aisha Chow grabbed the lifeline on offer in the women's single sculls event at the Lagoa Stadium, here in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, yesterday.
The Trinidad and Tobago rower finished second in her rescheduled repechage race to secure a quarterfinal berth at her very first major international competition.
Already in the history books as the country's first-ever Olympic rower, Chow added another chapter by earning a top-24 position at the 2016 Rio Games. Chow spoke to the Express shortly after her runner-up finish in eight minutes, 04.91 seconds.
“In about 15 minutes, after my legs stop trembling, I will be ecstatic. Right now, all I could feel is my wobbly legs. My stretch goal for this Olympics was to make the quarter-finals. Not that I would stop there, but I felt if I could make the quarter-finals that would be an amazing achievement for me, because this Olympic Games wasn't even on the horizon eight months ago. I can't even believe it. I want to cry.”
Chow was at the front of the race after 500 metres, but surrendered the lead to Algeria's Amina Rouba before the halfway mark. Chow held on to second spot, but was made to work hard at the end of the race by fast-finishing Iranian Mahsa Javar.
“The second 1,000 metres was a little rough,” said Chow, “so I backed off a bit. I had a series of disastrous strokes in the heats, and did not want to make another disastrous technical error, so I did back off on the power a little bit in the second thousand. But then in the last 20 metres, Iran made an amazing…her sprint was fantastic. I really had to pick it up to hold her off.”
Rouba topped the field in 8:04.21, finishing ahead of Chow and Javar (8:06.57). Chow will be back on the water today at 8.20am (T&T time), in the second quarter-final. The top three finishers will progress to the A/B semi-finals.
“I'm going to see what I can do. I have nothing to lose. From here on, it's how well can I row, how fast can I row, what kind of speed can I pull out of myself. And there's no pressure anymore. Just go as fast as I can.”
T&T sailor Andrew Lewis had some challenges at the Marina da Gloria, yesterday, ending the opening day of the men's laser class competition with 76 points for 40th spot in the 46-man field.
“Today was a very unexpected situation for me,” Lewis told the Express. “I thought the conditions would play out a little bit differently. I've been here many times to train, and expected certain things to happen…wind patterns and what not, and they didn't happen like I expected. I will be a lot more open-minded tomorrow (today), going into the next two races.”
Lewis finished 42nd in the first race, but improved to 34th in the second. At one stage in race two, the 26-year-old was actually in ninth spot. “I started to go by what I know of the course, but a huge left-shift came in and I lost ten boats just like that. Its super-tactical, super-challenging, and you can't miss a beat out there. It's heart-breaking and a little bit confusing, so I have to definitely review my strategy.”
Races three and four will be staged today, with the earlier contest starting at 12.15 p.m. (TT time).
While Lewis is disappointed with his first-day effort, he appreciates that simply competing at his second Olympic Games is an achievement in itself. A life-threatening accident here in Rio last December could have ended his sailing career. But Lewis battled tenaciously in what turned out to be a successful bid to keep his Olympic dream alive.
“Every single moment of this, I'm very grateful for.” The two-time Olympian said he is physically up to the challenge of Olympic competition. “I felt just as strong as everyone else. I'm a little bit lighter, which gives me an advantage on the downwind. And I feel I'm just as fast as everybody. I just need to get my tactics perfect.”
With eight races to come between today and Saturday, Lewis has ample opportunity to turn things around. Artistic gymnastics, however, is more unforgiving, and T&T's Marisa Dick was eliminated on Sunday after finishing 55th in the women's qualification event with an all-around score of 50.832.
Swimmer Dylan Carter gets his first taste of Olympic competition at 12.11 this afternoon (T&T time), in the fourth of eight men's 100 metres freestyle heats.