Moe Sbihi will have a quick turnaround
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
Moe Sbihi will have to compete just 12 hours after carrying the flag for Great Britain in the Olympics opening ceremony after heats for the men’s eight rowing were brought forward due to a forecast typhoon.
Hot weather had already made life difficult for competitors but the schedule for the rowing events has been thrown into chaos due to the potentially severe weather conditions set to hit Tokyo on Monday.
Olympics organisers have brought forward all of Monday’s races to Sunday, with the heats for the men’s eight also moving forward 24 hours to Saturday to accommodate them in the schedule.
This impacts on Sbihi, who was chosen alongside Hannah Mills as one of Team GB’s two flag bearers for the opening night of competition, with his crew now scheduled to race at 12.10pm on Saturday afternoon. The opening ceremony begins at 8pm local time and is scheduled to finish at around 11.
The heat is crucial as it will feel like a sudden-death race since only one of the three eights qualifies directly to the final. Britain’s eight line up against the Dutch, who are always fast but have not yet beaten Sbihi’s crew this season, and the unknown quantity of New Zealand, so every scrap of energy will count if they wish to avoid the second-chance repechage race.
In a break from previous Olympics, the rowing had started hours before the ceremony, with opening heats featuring four British crews. Vicky Thornley won comfortably in a heat which included Swiss former world champion Jeannine Gmelin, while the men’s double of Graeme Thomas and John Collins came second, finally giving Graeme the right to call himself an Olympian four years after falling ill just before the Rio Games. The men’s and women’s quads both came third, pushing them into last-ditch repechage races which will now be rowed on Sunday, and in which they must finish first or second to claim a place in the medal final. Pairs oarswomen Helen Glover and Polly Swann start their campaign on Saturday.